Julia Child's Bouef Bourguignon
We had already gone and done our first Valentine's Day dinner at Balliceaux on Friday night and had plans for Valentine's Day as well. But, once I got this, I nixed those plans to make Julia's infamous Bouef Bourguignon.
I really took the time to read through the recipe (several times actually), which I'm usually not the best about doing. It was a good thing I did, because there were also two specific recipes included in the main recipe for brown braised onions and sauteed mushrooms (which have to be done in two batches).
I'd say from start to finish this took me about 5 hours (and Hubby even helped me some!). Now, I'm a slow chopper and I was meticulous about browning my meat - I got a beautiful rich brown crust on every single side, but this is a process. A process which Child stresses at the beginning of the book should not be rushed and that the recipes in her book are not for those on time schedules.
But was it worth it? Oh goodness, yes. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical. Not skeptical that it would be good, but skeptical that it would be amazing. And, amazing it was. So rich, so tender. Hubby said it was the best thing he's ever put in his mouth - slightly sweet, but still savory - yet not "herby".
There are instructions for both serving it immediately and for serving it later. I had read that the next day it's even better. After having it immediately, Hubby & I doubted that it could get better. But it did. The flavors deepened. This is the kind of dish that spoils you (Hubby is requesting it once a week!). The first time we had it, I served it with boiled new potatoes and the second time I served it with brown rice. I thought both were equally delicious. Hubby liked the new potatoes more.
I have included below the wording from the book prefacing the recipe as well as the recipe itself. There are a few things that I have noted in italics in the recipe below. First, I was unable to find fresh small white onions - even at Whole Foods. So, I had to settle for fresh small red onions. Also, somehow in the craziness of preparing the meat, I forgot to add in the garlic - completely. However, I can tell you this, I will be repeating this recipe with the red onions and minus the garlic.
As for the meat, Julia's top suggestions for this are rump roast and chuck roast. Whole Foods did not have rump roast, only chuck roast. So we purchased a 3lb chuck roast and had them cut it into the required 2 inch cubes.
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.
Vegetable and Wine Suggestions
Boiled potatoes are traditionally served with this dish. Buttered noodles or steamed rice may be substituted. If you also wish a green vegetable, buttered peas would be your best choice. Serve with the beef a fairly full-bodied, young red wine, such as Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux-St. Émilion, or Burgundy.
Servings: Serves 6
9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep
6 ounces bacon
1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine (I used a Cotes du Rhone)
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon (I used beef stock)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic (I omitted this)
1/2 tsp. thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
Blanched bacon rind
18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock (I used small red onions)
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
Remove rind from bacon, 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.
Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 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.
Dry the stewing 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.
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.
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 (2 hours and 40 minutes was perfect). The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms (see recipes below). Set them aside until needed.
When the melt 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 to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
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. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.
For immediate serving: Covet 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 the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
Brown Braised Onions
18 - 24 peeled onions, about 1 inch in diameter
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp oil
a 9-10 inch enameled skillet
1/2 cup of brown beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
Medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf & 1/4 tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth
When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and saute 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 cannont expect brown them uniformly.
Pour in the stock, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet.
10 inch enameled skillet
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, quartered, washed and well dried
Place the skillet over high heat with the buter 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 saute 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.