She told me not to do it.


Sisters know which buttons to push.  I don’t know why, but we get some perverse pleasure out of doing it, too.  My sister will tell me repeatedly how much she and her family loved a recipe she tried recently.  Over the next few weeks, she’ll ask if I’ve tried that recipe yet.  When I finally get around to making it, I will inevitably be missing one of the ingredients on the list. The next conversation will go like this.

Catherine:  “Did you try that pork ragu yet?”

Andra:  “Yes, we had it last night but it was just OK.  I don’t know, maybe I didn’t cook it long enough or maybe it’s because I didn’t have tomatoes so I used a can of Rotel.  Oh, and I didn’t have parmesan so I used cheddar.  I also didn’t have a pork roast so I used ground beef.  And since we were out of pappardelle I served it over tortilla chips.  But, I did have refried beans, so I added those and served it with fresh cilantro and pickled jalapeños.”

It drives her crazy.  This week I was making beef bourguignon using Ina Garten’s recipe, which is delicious.  But, I was out of a few ingredients, didn’t want to go to the store and was committed to having it in the oven quickly.  I called Catherine.  “What should I use instead of brandy or cognac?” I asked.  “I have sambuca, gin, vodka, whiskey, and creme de cassis.”  The Irish whiskey was the clear choice but I had a harder one for her.  “I’m out of bacon, what could I substitute?”  Before she could answer I spied a bag of pepperoni slices in the cheese drawer, problem solved.  I could hear her jaw tense up as she warned me not to use pepperoni in a beef bourguignon.  I argued that pepperoni is another kind of cured meat with lots of smokiness and fat that will render down, making a perfect vehicle for browning the meat in.  Catherine said, “Fine.  Do what you want”,  her tone daring me to do it.  That’s all I needed, the gauntlet had been thrown.

I chopped up 6 oz of pepperoni and threw in the Le Creuset.  I think I heard “mon dieu” moan from the pot.  I  almost lost heart when I saw the orange fat begin to cover the bottom of the enamel but before I could think too much about what I was doing, I laid my first layer of beef cubes in the bottom of the pot and instantly knew I was off to a good start.  The meat sizzled and smelled wonderfully smokey as it started to brown.  The Irish whiskey went in and when I ignited it, blazed much higher and longer than I ever remember cognac doing. I was again a little afraid of what I had created, but at this point, the damage was done and I had no choice but to see it to the end.

It turned out to be one of the better beef bourguignons I have ever made.  It was rich, dark and smokey and the whiskey gave it a sweetness that countered the pepperoni very nicely.  Most importantly, my family loved it.  I don’t think Catherine will ever buy off on the Irish Whiskey Pepperoni Beef Bourguignon but I do know that I could probably make it through at least two rounds of Chopped.



  1. Michelle Hardy says:

    This is awesome! You gals are so talented and so funny! Congrats on a great blog, but also being super talented in the kitchen. Or should i say ‘supper’ talented?!

  2. Following up on Trip’s comment, two years ago BB had one wiht a leethar button that I passed on (being frugal), then last year I passed on one fro Jcrew even though it was on sale for 40 at end of season. Now I can’t find one the right one, but the Rugby comes real close.

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