*Well, it’s not really “bourguignon.” But it is ACD friendly, sugar free, gluten free, and vegan. And it tastes delicious. What more could you ask for?
I will never forget the first lecture I attended as a callow undergraduate at the University of Windsor: it was Modern American Drama, with a professor named Dr. John Ditksy. In his early forties, Dr. Ditsky appeared to be the quintessential “absent-minded professor,” with a demeanor like Columbo, a wit like Woody Allen, and a face like Jason Schwartzman. True to appearances, the man was brilliant. I discovered later that he was one of the foremost Steinbeck critics in the world and had published hundreds of academic papers.
His lecture was peppered with words I’d never even heard before (I scribbled furiously in the margins of my notebook so I could look them up later: “adumbrate,” “hyperbole,” “interstices” –as the hour went on, I felt less and less equipped for university), and every female student in the class developed a crush on him. Of course, I immediately joined that coterie.
I carried my crush around with me wherever I went that year, like a thermos tucked under my arm; on the outside, cool, smooth and unassuming; on the inside, steamy hot. The only person who knew of my amorous infatuation was my buddy Michelle, who was as outgoing as I was shy and introverted. Michelle never had a problem striding over to Dr. Ditsky at the end of each class, joking with him or posing obvious questions just to hear his witty response; she even tapped him on the arm a few times as she spoke (my cheeks flushed red just watching her).
One day, as a few students milled about the hall outside the classroom waiting for the lecture to begin, Dr. Ditsky approached Michelle and me. Immediately, Michelle launched into some lively chatter, asking our prof how he had spent the previous weekend; she possessed none of the typical student’s reserve when it came to posing personal questions of authority figures. Ditsky muttered something innocuous and returned the question.
“Oh, pretty good,” she responded. “I went to a party with my boyfriend and some of his friends. You know, boring boys.” (She rolled her eyes at the last word).
He turned to me. “Did you go, too, Heller?” I could feel my face heat up, and shook my head. (Most likely, I had spent the majority of the weekend in residence or the library).
Suddenly, Michelle had an idea. “You know, I think Heller here needs a boyfriend,” she piped up. “But not one of the guys from university. I mean, the guys here are all so childish. She needs someone older, more mature.” She stared meaningfully at him, nodding her head as if to impress upon him the gravity of the statement.
To his credit, Ditsky didn’t flinch. Without even cracking a smile, he responded, “Well, you know, you may have to wait a while for that. For most guys it usually takes until their forties before they even start acting mature.”
I wanted to cram myself under one of the classroom desks, or slink behind the water fountain and melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West when she was doused with water. But then–something magical happened.
“You know, a few colleagues and I are having lunch** today at the DH Tavern after class,” Ditsky went on. Why don’t you two ladies join us?” I had heard about the legendary “lunches” at the DH, where profs and a few select students engaged in hours-long discussions about literature, philosophy, culture and life, all punctuated by pub fare and too many beers to count.
Well, that initial lunch evolved into a 28-year friendship, until my beloved mentor passed away in 2006. And from that very first meal, he treated me as if I were already a colleague and intellectual equal despite my lack of experience or erudition. After a couple of years of lunches at the DH, I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a group of students who were asked to spend a weekend at Ditsky’s home.
Before that time, all I knew about Mrs. Ditsky was (a) she’d been married to my crush since they were both teens, and (b) he always (always) stopped to buy her flowers after our pub lunches, before heading to the Ambassador Bridge on his way home. The moment I stepped out of the car in Detroit , Mrs. D greeted me with a warm hug and led me by the hand up to the guest room where I’d be staying. The bed, topped with a pale blue down comforter and several plumped pillows, was surrounded by antique bookcases filled with novels and other works of famous American authors–all signed by the authors.
“I hope you’ll be comfortable here,” she said as she placed my bag on the floor. “I thought you’d like to have the company of the writers you’ve been studying.” How could you not love such a woman as much as her husband?
It was during that initial weekend when I first tasted beef bourguignon. At the time, I had no idea that this French beef stew had been popularized by Julia Child, nor that it even contained wine. All I knew was that I was served a rich, robust beef stew with tender chunks of meat, with a thick, buttery sauce that perfectly complemented the slippery noodles on which it rested. I requested the recipe, fully expecting that Mrs. D wouldn’t reveal her secret.
A few weeks later, I received a photocopy in the mail with a handwritten note detailing any changes she’d made (3 cloves of garlic instead of the one in the recipe; more onions; and the need for an electric knife to cut the meat into bite-sized chunks, though I never did use one). She closed with, “You’re missed by both of us. Guest room is yours anytime you want. Hugs–Love, S &J.” And with that, my girlish crush evaporated, and I gained not one, but two lifelong friends.
For years afterward, whenever I wanted to “wow” someone (read: a date) with a great homecooked meal, I made that beef bourguignon. When I changed my diet back in 1999, the recipe was slipped into a file folder with other clippings and more or less forgotten. Last week, it suddenly came back to mind.
Gemini I, her husband, and PR Queen and her husband were coming over for dinner. I knew the Geminis love beef; PR Queen, a vegan like me, mentioned that her husband won’t even consider eating a vegetarian meal. As a result, the evening featured two parallel stews: beef bourguignon for them, and tempeh “bourguignon” for me and PR Queen. And I daresay, PR Queen and I got the better deal.
In order to render the stew ACD friendly, I knew I’d have to eliminate the wine (*stifled sob*). But what could I use in its stead? The obvious choice was vegetable broth, and of course I included it. But what about the tart, tannic depth of the burgundy? I was rummaging through the fridge when I spied it–my bottle of (unsweetened) cranberry juice. Eureka!
Believe it or not, I think the juice is what made this dish so toothsome. Tempered with a few drops of stevia, the sourness of the cranberries dissipates into the savory, sanguine broth. Redolent with parsley, thyme, marjoram and bay leaves, the stew was a perfect dish for an evening with good friends, old and new. It brought to mind that other one, long ago, shared with my mentor and his dear wife. Next time I speak to Mrs. D, I’ll be sure to offer her the recipe.
**let’s face it, “having lunch” is a misnomer. “Getting sauced” is probably more accurate.
Tempeh “Bourguignon” with Garlic Mashed Potatoes (ACD Stage 2 and Beyond)
from Diet, Dessert and Dogs (http://rickiheller.com)
The original recipe asks for a bouquet garni, and you can certainly make your own. I find that adding the dried herbs and spices directly to the sauce works just as well in this case, as they meld beautifully as the stew simmers.
2 packages (about 1.5 pounds or 700 g) tempeh (I used soy-only)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Bragg’s liquid aminos , tamari or soy sauce (if allowed)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (15 ml) each dried parsley and chives
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) dried thyme
1/4 tsp (1 ml) dried marjoram
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) celery seeds
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) ground cloves
freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt, or more, to taste
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable broth or stock
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened cranberry juice
5-10 drops unflavored stevia liquid, to taste
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tapioca or arrowroot starch, if needed
Cut the tempeh into bite-sized pieces. Mix 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of the olive oil and Bragg’s in the bottom of a nonreactive (glass or ceramic) square pan, and toss the tempeh to coat evenly. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Bake the tempeh until the marinade is absorbed and the pieces are beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you prepare the base.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil over medium heat and add the onion, leeks, and carrot. Sauté until the vegetables are softened but not brown, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley and chives and cook another 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except for tempeh and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add tempeh, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables are beginning to dissolve into the sauce. If necessary, add the starch by mixing it in a small bowl with 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml) of the sauce first, then returning the mixture to the pot and stirring well.
To serve, spoon over cooked noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes. Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce (not ACD friendly; not GF)
Three Years Ago: Comfort from the Cold: Spiced Brown Basmati Rice Pudding (for ACD, use stevia instead of maple syrup)