Sunday Evening at Sandy’s Table

I picked up this recipe from Cuisine at Home, and it was simply named “Tasty Beef Stew”. Easy to follow and assemble; but thinking that the name was lacking, I re-named it in honor of one of my favorite Peter Sellers’ send-ups, The Mouse That Roared. Made in 1959, Sellers plays three roles in the film: The Grand Duchess Gloriana XII, Prime Minister Count Rupert of Mountjoy & Tully Bascombe. The Duchy of Grand Fenwick decides that the only way to get out of their economic woes is to declare war on the United States, lose and accept foreign aid. They send an invasion force to New York(armed with longbows) which arrives during a nuclear drill that has cleared the streets. Wandering about to find someone to surrender to, they discover a scientist with a special ultimate weapon that can destroy the Earth. When they capture him and his bomb they are faced with a new possibility: What do you do when you win a war?

For the wine I decided on a California“ field blend.” I love these types of wine that feature varietals that are atypically blended to take advantage of a successful harvest. Each Vintage is new… a reflection of that year’s bounty… the ultimate “winemaker’s brew”!  This is our second Vintage with the wine… the first was predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, this vintage is predominantly Syrah. This wine falls under the technical classification of “Crowd Pleaser”! Perfect to enjoy alongside of a tasty beef stew!

Balius Xanthos Proprietary Red ’10 (Napa, CA)

Both “Balius” and “Xanthos” are derived from Greek Mythology and were the names of Achilles’ horses. The 2010 Xanthos is a deep, dark plum/blackberry color in the glass and a nose of sweet black and blue fruit and dark chocolate. Velvety smooth and soft in the mouth with polished tannins, flavors of black plum, cocoa, anise, and blackberry jam fill out the profile of this California red. Fruit forward but balanced with good acid making it easy drinking for all occasions. The wine is a blend of 63% Syrah, 16% Segalin, 11% Merlot, and 10% Zinfandel and was aged for 18 months in 40% new French oak.

n.b. Xanthos was actually not the name of Achilles’ horse… it was his landlord.

The Duchy of Grand Fenwick Beef Stew


6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
A goodly amount of ice
6 strips of thick sliced bacon, diced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp. Spanish paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1½ inch chunks
1 lb small red potatoes quartered
2 cups baby carrots
1½ cups diced celery
2 dried bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp beef base
2½ cups low sodium beef broth
1½ cups vegetable juice cocktail
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen green peas thawed
1 cup frozen pearl onions thawed
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Chopped fresh parsley


  1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size.  Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming.  Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!
  2. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat ‘til crisp. Drain bacon on a paper-towel lined plate; reserve drippings.
  3. Combine flour, salt, paprika, thyme, black pepper and cayenne in a bowl; add beef and toss to coat.  Heat 1 tbsp of drippings in same skillet over medium. Sear half the beef until brown, 3 minutes per side.  Repeat with 1 tbsp of drippings and remaining beef; transfer to a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker.  Add any remaining flour mixture to the slow cooker; top with potatoes, carrots, celery and bay leaves.
  4. Stir tomato paste, garlic and beef base into the skillet and cook over medium heat, 1 minute
  5. Combine broth, vegetable juice and Worcestershire and stir into skillet, scraping up bits from the bottom.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until thick, 2-3 minutes.  Pour broth mixture over beef in slow cooker.  Cover slow cooker and cook until the beef is fork-tender on high setting 3-4 hours, or low setting 6-7 hours. Discard bay leaf.
  6. Now, with the extended down time, a second Martini would be in order… a time to reflect on this glories of this beverage.
  7. At the very end, add peas, pearl onions and vinegar to the stew.  Garnish servings with parsley and bacon.
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