I’ll tell you one thing for sure. Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe has nothing on Margaret Hilty’s version. And who is Margaret Hilty you ask? Well, she was the former wife of one of my former husband’s former physics professors. That’s who! She was also one heck of a wonderful person as well as a fantastic cook. A little story about this amazing woman and this recipe.
For whatever reason, Mrs. Hilty took a liking to me. (Even though Mrs. Hilty was divorced, her former husband (Professor Hilty) used to invite his students and their wives to her house for get-togethers. Apparently they had been married for decades before the divorce, and she still loved having young people in her home.) During these infrequent get-togethers, Mrs. Hilty would serve us the most delicious food.
One night, it was just my husband and I who were invited for dinner and Margaret (by then she had asked us to call her Margaret) served us this amazing dish. I had never tasted anything so good. So right there and then I begged for the recipe. (If possible, I would also have adopted her that evening, but that might have been asking too much!) She was like the perfect white haired grandmother. She enjoyed hearing about my aspirations, was never judgmental, and laughed at my jokes. I made a vow right there and then that when I got older and had a home of my own, I too would always have good food around, not only for my own family but for whoever happened to be in my home at the time.
I also remember thinking that not only was she the best cook I had ever known, she was probably just about the best person I had ever had the privilege to meet. Her way of living life was an inspiration to all of us college age kids. Her ability to keep an open mind and a generous and forgiving spirit was a model for all of us to follow. She was simply an amazing, bright and loving woman. I feel very blessed to have had her in my life, even if it was for only a brief time.
I actually hated when we had to leave her behind after college. But if I ever make it to heaven, I know she will be there waiting with more wonderful recipes to share with me. I hope you enjoy Margaret Hilty’s recipe as much as I do. And thanks for letting me share her story with you.
- ¼ lb. bacon, chopped
- 2 lbs. rump roast or other stew type meat cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ c. flour
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 carrots cut into ¼-inch thick rounds
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3 c. burgundy wine
- 2 c. beef stock (I use 2 cups water and 2 heaping teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Beef Base)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
- 1 T. tomato paste
- 2 T. butter
- 1 lb. small whole mushrooms (button preferably)
- 2 T. minced fresh parsley
Fry bacon until crisp in a large, heavy covered pan. Remove the bacon and set aside. Dry the beef cubes and place in a large plastic bag along with the flour which has been seasoned with the salt and pepper. Shake well to coat the meat. (Don’t forget to zip the bag first, or you too will be coated with flour!) Fry the cubes in the remaining bacon grease until well browned. (Add additional bacon grease or butter if needed to brown all the meat.) When all the meat is brown, remove to a container and set aside. Add the carrots and onions to the pan. Cook until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Again, if you need to add more fat to brown the veggies, do so. Add cooked bacon and meat cubes, along with any meat juices that have accumulated back into the pan with the carrots, onions, and garlic. Stir in the wine while scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits on the bottom. Add the beef broth, bay leaf, thyme, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer slowly for about 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Stir periodically.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a fry pan and sauté the mushrooms for about 5 minutes. When the beef is tender, add the mushrooms. If the gravy is not as thick as you would prefer, add a couple of tablespoons of flour to about a quarter cup of water and slowly stir into the stew. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve over Creamy Mashed Potatoes (recipe below) and sprinkle with parsley.
Hint: Don’t ever discard bacon grease after you have cooked bacon. Store it in a covered container in your refrigerator for just such an occasion as browning the meat in this recipe. BTW – bacon fat has about the same shelf life as a Twinkie. (Don’t quote me on this, because I don’t want the Twinkie folks to sue me, but truly, bacon fat can be stored for months.)
CREAMY MASHED POTATOES
- 2 very large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into about 2-inch pieces
- kosher salt
- 6 T. butter, room temperature
- freshly ground black pepper
Place the potatoes and about a tablespoon of salt in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are super tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. Pour back into pan and set on stove using lowest heat setting available. Mash the potatoes and butter together. Add pepper and enough milk to make a creamy, not too stiff mixture. Adjust seasoning. Cover pan, turn off heat and serve immediately. Or, place in oven on low setting until ready to serve.