Thursday, Dec. 06, 2007
Dear Diary:

It's not often that I find myself drinking alone in the afternoon but it was right there in the recipe so hey, I had to do it.

Had to.

Canadian chef James Barber a.k.a. The Urban Peasant died last week at his home on Vancouver Island. I only heard about it today because apparently I live under a rock.

My original copy of his cookbook Ginger Tea Makes Friends, a gift from my dear friend Annie about 35 years ago, literally disintegrated because I used it so much. It was replaced by one of my three loyal readers from Diaryland and even that copy is starting to show wear and tear.

Simple, tasty, inexpensive food cooked with what's at hand. When I want that, I turn to him.

It's cold and snowy here today, so it seemed the perfect day to pay homage to his passing with a dish of his that's real comfort food for me. The recipe calls it Six Pak Stu, and if you want to be fancy, you can call it Carbonades du Boeuf � la Flamande.

James Barber's Six Pak Stu from Ginger Tea Makes Friends

Chop and fry in 4 tbsp. of butter very gently 2 large onions, low heat, 20 minutes, turning frequently
Time for a beer
Now: Onions out of pan, add 2 tbsp. oil, high heat, fry quick 1 � pounds stewing beef, floured. Brown all sides.
Now: Meat out. Heat down. Add 2 tbsp. flour, stir, stir, stir until light brown. If there's not enough oil to cook the flour, add a tiny bit. Make sure that every bit of sediment from the pan gets mixed in. This is what makes the difference between it being merely good and being simply delicious.
Add 1 � beers to the pan and beat smooth.
Time for half a beer.
Add: 1 � tsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. vinegar, 1 clove chopped garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp. thyme, � tsp. basil and salt and pepper to taste.
In a casserole: layer of onions, layer of meat, layer of onions, layer of meat, top with onions.
Pour beer sauce over it all.
Cover tightly with either a lid or foil. Set your over to 250-275F, forget it for three hours or so.
If you want, when it's done you can garnish it with chopped parsley and crumbled crisp bacon. I give them a pass, myself.

It's great served with a vegetable that has some gumption, such as asparagus or Brussels sprouts. Because I love the gravy this makes, I always have mashed potatoes with it, too. You've gotta have Mount Mashed Potato erupting gravy. Gotta. It's a rule, eh.

When I went to his web site today, I was by turns weepy and bemused by the condolences left there. The thing that came through most was how he managed to touch people. He made me and people like me feel less klutzy. When things went wrong on his show they weren't edited out. He got around the problems, demystified cooking.

"Cooking," James Barber once said, "is the simplest way of saying, 'I love you'."

I think he's right.


Mileage on the Marnometer: 434.34 milesTen percent there rubber duck.Ten percent there rubber duck.Ten percent there rubber duck.Ten percent there rubber duck.Ten percent there rubber duck.Half way there

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