Friday, February 19, 2010

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Beef A la Bourguignon

A few months ago Ryan and I watched "Julie & Julia", the pic based on the life of Julia Child, and one blog writer's attempt to cook her way through Julia Child's tome, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Inspired by a fellow foodie-blogger (and jealous, of course, that she now has published books and do I get this blog on that bandwagon?? ) We decided that we wanted to try our hand at a few of the recipes Julia made famous/ Julie tried in the movie, and we figured Valentine's Day would be a good time to give it a go. So, we decided on Beef A la Bourguignon, which I can still only sorta-spell. Here is a play by play of our adventure:

2/14, 3 pm: Lora is passed out in bed, drooling after a morning mimosa that was just clearly too much for her to handle. Ryan decides that this is not going to happen, and decides Beef A la Bourguignon will have to wait until tomorrow.

2/15: 1 pm: We slowly start to realize that the recipe is written in english, but clearly not any english we know -check out the version we cooked off of here:

It's just not very clear. There are also about thirty steps, which we're about to breakdown, but are pretty much just all listed out. We also realized that we do not own the proper pan, so some improv is gonna be called for.

3 pm: It starts. Grocery shopping at whole foods for the meats, and prepping the veggies- slicing onion, peeling carrots, and dicing up mushrooms.


One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (We bought it pre-cubed)

1 carrot, sliced (We like carrots, and then we can eat these as a side, so we put in way more. Go for the baby, they will get SUPER tender as the whole thing cooks down)
1 (white) onion, sliced
18 to 24 white onions, small (we bought a bag of pearl onions)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered- we bought baby bellas, awesome flavors from these guys.

Stuff you cook with:
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf (approx 1/2 tsp)

"Herb bouquet":
4 parsley sprigs ("stems")
one-half bay leaf (approx 1/4 tsp),
one-quarter teaspoon thyme,
tied in cheesecloth- ok, so cheesecloth? Basically, we bought a little herb satchel- they sell them near the meat counter in our grocery store, usually used to flavor soups and stews- see photo below)

5:00: the cooking starts.

Cut bacon into " lardons" (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). We left the rind on, though Julia recommends you separate. Simmer for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a flameproof casserole (We used a large saute pan) over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Place to the side with the lardons.

In the same fat, brown the sliced onion and carrots. Remove to the side and pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef, bacon, and vegetables to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then sprinkle on the flour and toss to coat the beef lightly (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust). Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

Remove and toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 more minutes.

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

On stove top, stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Transfer to a casserole dish (If you are, like me, cooking in a pan) and 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.

(Entered oven at: 5:30ish)

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms, start about an hour before ready to serve.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of olive oil until bubbling in the skillet (We had the advantage of using the same one we'd cooked the bacon and beef in, so lots of flavor already in the pan)

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.

Heat remaining olive 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 and you're almost ready to serve, pour juice into sauce pan.

Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top of the beef.

Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, 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.

8:30 PM: Declare victory.

Serve with potatoes, egg noodles, or rice.

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