Tuesday, August 11, 2009

La Fête de Julia, Part Deux

The Julia Child Holiday continues...

Part Deux is dedicated to my first Beef Bourguignon. I'm not going to lie, I loved making this recipe. I mean, you get to set the stew on fire. The whole, somewhat intricate process was a ball. And the meal was absolutely magnifique!

Here’s how I made it.

I am pretty sure my Dutch oven was made for this.

First, dice and brown the bacon. A sharp knife is key here. I began with a knife I hadn’t sharpened for a while and it took forever to cut even one piece. I then sharpened it and it made a world of difference. If I hadn’t the recipe would have taken at least an hour more.

Then, for the beef. This is the part that I found the most challenging. You start by cubing the meat. Then, you have to pat the meat dry with paper towels. This is because the meat will not properly brown unless it is dried (a lesson from Julie & Julia). After seasoning the meat, you start searing it in single layer batches. This is tricky for a couple of reasons. First, you have to constantly turn the meat so each side is browned, which involved a fair amount of tong-work. Second, you have to put the right amount of meat in each batch. I think the key is not putting in a dense single layer. I did one round where I almost covered the bottom of the Dutch oven and it took the meat longer to cook because the temperature of the oil dropped so much. I think doing about 6 batches would be perfect. So, the lesson: this part takes time.

Patting dry:

An appropriate-sized batch being seared:

Removed to plate with bacon:

After you have removed the meat, you saute the carrots and onions in the pan juice. Then you add the garlic.

Next, you get to set the stew on fire. Literally. You pour in the brandy, you stand back, you light a match, and the stew catches on fire. And yes this definitely required me thinking of Julia and her admonitions about courage when you are cooking. The flame was actually somewhat tame in spite of my trepidation. It doesn’t woosh up terribly high, it just lights the stew with a mellow flame. So mellow, you probably can’t see it in this picture. But if you zoomed in, promise, it is there.

Now its time to return the bacon and beef back to the pot. Cover with an entire bottle of wine and beef broth, add tomato paste, add time, and bring it to a simmer. Once you have it here you are ready to pop it in the oven for 1 ¼ hours.

Cover with an entire bottle of wine and beef broth, add tomato paste, add time, and bring it to a simmer. Once you have it here you are ready to pop it in the oven for 1 ¼ hours.

While you wait, why not have a cheese plate with some champagne?!

Finally, you get to remove the stew from the oven and add a flour-butter mixture to it to thicken it.

You then add in the frozen onions (this saves a lot of time).

In a different pan, saute up the mushrooms with butter and a sprinkle of salt. I love that you add the thickly sliced mushrooms towards the end because it ensures that they do not disappear.

Once the mushrooms are brown, add them into the pot.

Bring it to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes, and Beef Bourguignon is ready to be served. To serve, place a piece of garlic-rubbed toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl.

And spoon the stew over top. The bread on the bottom of the bowl is to die for. I know stew recipes often call for noodles in the bottom, but I am now convinced bread is the only way to go. It soaks up all the wonderful broth and simultaneously thickens the soup.

The result: pure deliciousness. The flavoring was just right, the broth was delicious and rich, and the vegetables and the meat were wonderfully tender. Perfect for a winter’s day. Perfect for a dinner party. Perfect for when you want a challenge.

And especially perfect for a weekend dedicated to Julia Child’s greatness.

Beef Bourguignon (from Barefoot in Paris)

Warning: this recipe took me about 4 hours to make. While worth every minute, I totally underestimated how involved it would be. I think my guess was 2 ½ hours, and I was trying to be ‘generous’.

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz center cut bacon
2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb carrots, cut diagonally into 1-inch slices
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Cognac (or very good brandy) (I used E&J VSOP) (see Part Un for notes on this)
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine (I used pinot noir)
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tsp fresh thyme (1/2 tsp dried)
4 tablespoons of butter, divided into 2 at room temperature
3 tablespoons flour
1 lb frozen small onions
1 lb mushrooms, stems discarded and thickly sliced
1/2 inch slices of rustic bread, toasted and rubbed with garlic
Parsley to garnish


Heat oven to 250.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef for 3-5 minutes, browning on each side. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon, and continue until all the meat is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots and onions, 1 Tablespoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of black pepper in the fat and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back!, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with any juices that have accumulated. Add the bottle of wine and enough broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover with a tightly fitting lid, and place in the oven for 1 1/4 hours, until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour in a small bowl with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes, until lightly browned and add into the stew. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

To serve, toast the bread in the oven at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Remove the toast and rub with garlic. Place a toast in the bottom of each soup bowl, spoon the stew over the toast, and garnish with parsley.

But the weekend was not quite finished yet… Part Trois: Peach Crumble

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