Monday, June 6, 2011

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

If you haven't seen Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in Julie & Julia, you simply MUST watch it. Meryl Streep is absolutely FLAWLESS as Julia Child. Her brilliance astounds me. If you are fortunate enough to have seen it, then you know how the story often refers to Julia's recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, which is beef stew in red wine with bacon, onions, and mushrooms. As soon as I finished watching it, I wanted to immediately go and buy the ingredients so I could try the recipe. Well, considering that it was late at night, I opted to postpone my cooking project until I found myself with a lazy Sunday afternoon. I also got to thinking, "Why don't I have any of Julia Child's recipes in my archive?" Clearly, this needed to be remedied, and clearly THIS was the first recipe I needed to try.
So here we are. It's listed below, almost exactly as written in Julia's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set), and then I described a few things that I did differently. Before you make it, take a few minutes and read through it, and definitely read through my tips at the end. It may seem a little daunting upon first glance, just because there are lots of ingredients and steps, but it's really not difficult. It just takes a little while. Like my Mom always said, just follow the recipe. Choose a day when you know you'll have some free time, and give it a try! You can do this!! This is the perfect Sunday thing to do while you're preparing for the coming week. Most of it is oven time anyway, so you can take care of other things while it's in the oven. You could even have a "dinner and a movie" party! Invite some friends over, watch the movie, and serve this for dinner! It's really worth the time, and you'll impress the hell out of everyone. Just saying that you're making Boeuf Bourguignon will make everyone think you're an accomplished chef! And as Julia would say:
"Bon Appetit!"

1 6 ounce piece chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full bodied
3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
20 small white onions
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered

Preheat oven to 450F.
Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to side dish with a slotted spoon.
Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust). Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325F. Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushroom.*
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for 1-2 minutes, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

To peel pearl onions:
Drop the onions into rapidly boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain and then plunge them into ice cold water. Cut off the root end of each one. The peel should slip right off. Easy!

-Instead of using the piece of slab bacon and simmering it in water, etc, I just bought a package of super thick cut bacon and rendered the fat from it.
-While I was cooking to beef, the bottom of the pan started to get too dark. So I deglazed the pan with a little water, scraped up the browned bits, then added it to the bowl with the bacon/beef. Then I started over with a little more olive oil.  I was gonna just throw out the deglazing liquid, but I couldn't bring myself to throw away all that flavor. That's like flavor GOLD!
-I didn't do the herb bouquet with the cheesecloth. I just threw the herbs in.
 -I also used more than one carrot and then just left them in at the end (instead of straining them out) because I like carrots! I'm sure Julia probably strained all the aromatics out of the sauce so it would be smooth and glossy and very French, but I saw no reason to discard them. YUM. I also kept the onions and mushrooms separate from the stew because I think it makes a lovely presentation. (this also makes it easier for any of your guests who are not fans of mushrooms or pearl onions).
-Btw, the pearl onions were AMAZING just by themselves. Perfect side dish for a steak or roast beast.
-I served the stew over regular egg noodles, simply tossed with melted butter and chopped fresh parsley.

1 comment:

Abbular! said...

i've made this and it's SOOOO worth it!!!