Let it stew, it will bowl over

Every culinary aspirant may have come across this classic at one time or another. Most maybe from the ramblings of Julia child, others from great chefs, mothers and anybody else in the culinary world that mattered. Many have considered this to stand the test of time, a veritable dish that is robust enough to keep the hungry from resorting to bloody murder. Slow cooked stewed, braised, however it is made, it always makes the kitchen smell of the rich grapes of Burgundy, a deep, soothing aroma that anybody would not mind to stick on the walls.
I first came across Beef Bourguignon at a restaurant in downtown Luzern, just across the bridge. It was the season when the leaves start to turn golden, yellow and red, adding a rustling carpet on the Swiss cobble-stoned streets. Summer has long since bid adieu, and it was time to seek refuge in the warmth of rustic dinners, red wine, suss most and comforting stews.
Coming in from the cold, me and my Greek friend gladly peeled off our jumpers and sat down by the window fronting the river. It was seven in the evening, but the sun has not set yet. Just grey and purple and a smattering of color from passersby's with loud neon jackets and the aforementioned falling leaves. The waiter handed us the menu, and suggested the Bourguignon special. My German was not that great at the time, but I did understand it to be stewed beef with crusty bread. It certainly was an invitation not to waste more time perusing the menu. Quickly we added a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Gut the waiter said and shuffled off to the kitchen pass. Johnny Halliday was singing Je serai la from the piped in music, and we settled in.
After ten minutes of idle talk and watching different people pass through the stone archways, steaming bowls of the rich stew were placed in front of us, the smell of red wine making the cabernet almost, but not quite, redundant. Warm crusty bread was placed in a basket for us to dig in. Like the song of the sirens, the aroma drew our faces closer to the glistening stew, and before my nose could take a dip into the rich sauce, the spoon was already bridging the gap to my cold lips. And the warmth exploded the moment it touched my tongue. The deep, robust flavor encapsulating and reaching into every pore in my body. The beef was tender, juicy, and incredibly flavorful. The shallots and the bacon were a welcome contrast in texture. The dark sauce just was begging for the crusty bread. And for forty five minutes I enjoyed that bowl. Enjoying every bite every slurp until the last piece of bread wiped up the last smear of sauce. It was that good.
So I searched for the perfect recipe, something that replicated that one fall afternoon’s delight. I have seen several variations, bastardized versions, and close-guarded classics. But I immortalized the following recipe in my little black book.
Beouf Bourguignon
Makes for 8 servings
1.250 kg beef short ribs, deboned
80 g butter

Cut into 1.5 inch chunks, and season with salt and pepper
Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add butter and melt
Add the beef in batches, coloring them on all sides. It is important to put it in batches so as not to lower the pans temperature
Remove from pan and transfer to bowl
200 g white onions, chopped
100 g carrots, peeled and diced
30 g garlic, chopped
60 g button mushroom whole

 In the same pan add the onions carrots, garlic and mushroom and sauté until tender and slightly caramelized on all sides, about 5-8 minutes
Return beef to pan and stir to distribute evenly

1 750 bottle of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon
Add the wine to deglaze, and stir to scrape off the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan
Preheat oven to 160C/350F
3 pieces bayleaf
20 g fresh parsley
20 g fresh thyme
Add the herbs to the pan.
Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer
With a match, light up the simmering surface. Evaporating alcohol will flame up. Keep on doing this until the alcohol has fully evaporated, or there is no more flame
Transfer everything top a braising pan, then cover tightly with tin foil
Place pan in oven and braise for about 2 1/2 hours
Remove from pan to test for tenderness
Transfer meat and vegetables to a bowl and strain the remaining liquid to a sauce pan
Heat sauce pan and reduce to about half of its original quantity
Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a smaller sauce pan then reduce by half again. The resulting sauce will be a deep syrupy sauce
Mix sauce with the meats and vegetables
Serve hot in bowls with a slice of crusty bread, or mashed potatoes if you like.
Traditionalists would also serve this with pomme dauphinoise.
On cold days, this sets the mood. Play some Barry White or Madeline Peyroux. Or even Joss Stone. You really can’t brood with this stew. You only can be, at worst, melancholy, and reminiscing at best.
Tell me what you first feel on that first spoonful of Bourguignon. Post a comment and let everybody know if it was an epiphany or something else…


Top reasons not to go to the gym

...and what to do about it.
I choose not go to the gym. Millions have used their New Year's resolution as an excuse to migrate to these institutions. I don't blame them. One would do anything to feel better, healthier, and be more confident for the coming year. 
Years ago I signed for a membership at a local university gym. I felt at the time I needed to lose weight. To build up some muscle. My friend Joel hooked me up with one of the personal trainers. I went through orientation on the various machines, areas, and rules of etiquette. Program ran two weeks, by then I just stopped going. Not because of laziness. Not because of the lack of motivation. It was because it was redundant. But I will get to that point later on. I found good reasons not to ever sign up for membership again:

Lining up - Equipment in most gyms by quantity would satisfy most clientele. But it draws the line when you have to wait 10 minutes for a turn at the machine. By then your rhythm has slowed down, out of timing and basically screw up a mojo  that was built up at the previous machine. And to line up for a machine that is not designed for natural body movement is not, well, natural. And lining up is not limited to actually being in the gym. On average a gym is about 25 minutes from anybody. Most of which is stuck in traffic.
Social network - You go to the gym to work out. That means concentrating on your programs repetitions keeping in time. The gym is 'me' time. Not anybody else's. Why would I stop in mid-workout just to show you how to use the treadmill? Check out this list of annoying people.
It ain't exactly cheap - The fees are expensive. Put together about a year's worth of monthly membership you could have your own equipment at home.
Substandard trainers - Many of these trainers have no experience training clients and by looking at them don’t have experience training themselves.
They're like hospitals - breeding grounds for sickness and diseases. Think about it. Machines not wiped down. Sweat all over the place. Dead skin cells. Heavy breathing. Bleeding sometimes. And that's just one person. You get the picture.

With that said, I delve into the reason for redundancy. I work in the restaurant business. Each day involves body movement that would put any gym equipment to shame. I already go up and down a flight of stairs a few times each shift half the time with 20-30 pounds of food stuffs, equipment in my arms. Transferring full simmering stockpots and reducing sauces from one area to another requires strength as it carries 30-40 liters of hot liquid, and a high amount of dexterity.
I bend over hundreds of times for the low reach-in cooler, and stretch out to get pan after pan for cooking the various entrees.
I walk from the bus station to work and back, each way toning up my legs for a straight 20 minutes, more so if I am late, then i break into a run. Which is the oldest method of exercise. Only now in Manila the residents are getting on the bandwagon of running. It used to be badminton. But running. Most basic exercise. And it turned into a fad. I breath in fresh air, not reconditioned cool air. I use reusable water bottles for hydration.
I very rarely get sick. My girlfriend Rossana hates it that I don't take medication. Philosophy is that if my own body fights the sickness away without the use of chemicals, that means antibodies have built up my immunity the natural way. I very rarely get sick. My lungs are unremarkable, according to my last physical, despite smoking. Dentist doesn't think I smoke. I have a gut but only because I have so much good cooking to taste everyday, as opposed to eating like a rabbit just to lose 5 pounds. But my weight does not wildly fluctuate. I have no movement limitations. 
All this because I do not go to the gym, because I already have access to the best workout everyday. And my daughter Maxine is a pleasant addition. You might want to think about having your kids as the gym. Or workout ideas that can be done at home. Here are a few workout regimens that do not require a plastic membership card.
But then again, that's just me. What is your favorite work out regimen?