05 April 2010

Bouef Bourguignon

By now, I'm sure you've seen the movie Julie & Julia.  I saw it last summer in the theaters, watched it on pay-per-view with Ann, and got the DVD for Christmas.  Though I've watched the movie several times, it wasn't until recently that I made an attempt at the showstopping star of the film - Julia's Bouef Bourguignon.  The recipe is re-created everywhere on the internet, so I'll simply credit it to Julia herself. 

I'm glad I tried this, but let me just say: it's a lot of work.  This is a good dish to put together on a lazy Sunday when you have time to wander in and out of the kitchen, time to cook each part of the dish separately, time to check the oven and stir the pot and taste for seasonings.  This is not a good dish to make the Friday of the Olympic opening ceremonies when you are working at home and taking your two 15 minute breaks plus your lunch break as your windows of opportunity to chop, saute, and stir.  Luckily, I finish working around 4, so I had plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, set the table, and brush the flour out of my hair before the in-laws showed up.  It's taken me quite a while to get around to blogging this dish; maybe because it took me so long to finally make it, I've likewise been procrastinating sharing it with you? 

I tried not to be my usual substituting self and follow the recipe closely, but I did make a few small changes.  Instead of chunk bacon, I cut strips of bacon into chunks.  Instead of an herb bouquet, I just added the chopped herbs to the pot.  Lastly, I doubled the amount of pearl onions - mostly because we love them and the bag I bought had over 40 onions in it.  I don't think any of those changes had a major impact on the dish.  I opted to serve over egg noodles and served fresh steamed broccoli as a side. 

Boeuf Bourguignon
adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" 
by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck 

One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (I used 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
18 to 24 white onions, small
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

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.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

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 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. 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 coves the meat with a light crust).

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

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 mushrooms.

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 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.

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