Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon à la Julia

Boeuf Bourguignon
The first time I saw Julie and Julia, I had a serious need for that succulent fish sizzling in butter sauce that greeted Julia and Paul upon their arrival in Paris. Meryl Streep enjoyed it with such tremendous gusto, I enjoyed it right along with her. I read My Life in France and asked for Julia's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, for my birthday. The second time I watched Julie and Julia, which happened to be last weekend, I knew I had to make Boeuf Bourguignon and very soon. Today, even though it's Tuesday, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I had no idea what kind of time commitment I was in for. After creating a shopping list online last night, I did have the sense to allow one of New Season's friendly employees to shop for me. Between 1 and 5 this afternoon, every pan and cooking utensil in my kitchen had been used at least once, rewashed and used again. Every cube of butter melted away. Julia Child does not mess around!

"As is the case with most famous dishes, there are more ways than one to arrive at a good boeuf bourguignon. Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man, and can well be the main course for a buffet dinner. Fortunately you can prepare it completely ahead, even a day in advance, and it only gains in flavor when reheated." Julia Child

I served mine with homemade mashed potatoes, and butter-topped rosemary rolls, but Julia suggests boiled potatoes, buttered noodles or steamed rice. I also served a green salad. Julia suggested buttered peas. Oh, and a good bottle of red wine is essential.

Boeuf Bourguignon
a good dutch oven such as a le Creuset
6-oz chunk of bacon
1 Tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons flour
3 cups of a full-bodied young red wine such as Chianti
2-3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf
The blanced bacon rind
18-24 small white onions, brown braised in stock (recipe below)
1 lb quartered fresh mushrooms sauteéd in butter (recipe below)

1. Remove bacon rind and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

3. Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

4. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

5. Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

6. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. (See recipes below). Set them aside until needed.

7. 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 bacon mixture to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

8. Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, 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 of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. (The recipe may be completed in advance to this point).

For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Oignons Glacés a Brun (brown-braised onions)
18-24 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 cup of brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine, or water
Salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in cheesecloth

1. In a 9-10-inch skillet, melt butter and add oil. When butter and oil are bubbling, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

2. Braise them as follows: Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40-50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet.

Champignons Sautés Au Beurre (sauteed mushrooms)
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoon oil
1 lb fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large

Place a 10-inch enameled skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Boeuf Bourguignon sauce

Boeuf Bourguignon

A few things to remember when cooking a la Julia Child: Don't crowd the mushrooms, or they won't brown. If you don't dry meat, it won't brown properly. You can never have too much butter!

Bon appétit!


Cathy said...

Julia's recipe is worth all the preparation and simmering. It's so wonderful. I watched the movie again yesterday and enjoyed it as much as the first time I saw it. The cast is perfect.

Lisa said...

I just watched "Julie and Julia" again last night thinking the same thing, "I must make Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon."

You are brave. It must have been worth it as the outcome looks divine.

Cindy said...

Cathy, the steps for making this dish did seem to go on forever, but the flavors all come together in the end and make it worth the extra effort.

You are so right, the cast was superb. Meryl is perfect as Julia and how could you not fall in love with Paul? the perfect husband.

Cindy said...

Lisa, like I told my husband after dinner, "don't expect this on the menu every week." Not to mention the fact that we'd all put on the pounds rather quickly!

Susan said...

You've jumped on the boeuf bourgignon bandwagon! Very time consuming, indeed! Every post I've read about it has mentioned that. I'm not sure I'm willing to invest that much time in one dish, but I would be happy to come over for leftovers! :)

It looks scrumptious, by the way!

Cindy said...

Susan, Come on over, we still have a few servings left. And Julia claims this dish serves six. Must be six with very hearty appetites. I purposefully didn't read any posts about others experiences making boeuf bourguignon before I wrote this, but I may need to now.

Sharon said...

Your family is so lucky to have you! Your boeuf bourguignon looks so savory and beautiful that one can almost smell it!