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+++Enter At Your Own Risk+++ At the gentle nudging (I said gentle y'all) of a few friends, I have started these blogs in order to share my culinary goings-on and daily misadventures through my own brand of humor (ok, sarcasm). I just write about stuff! At 50, I have learned that living has gotten in the way of life - and I am going to blaze my own personal trail to fun (hopefully)! If it is feminine, great. If it is not, so much the better! Hopefully fun that does not land me in jail............

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf A La Bourguignonne. Boeuf Bourguignon. Bœuf Bourguignon. Beef Burgundy.

No matter what you call it, or how your pronounce it, it is a little slice of liquid heaven. Say what you will about the French – hoity-toity, snooty lot that they are – but they do have awesome food!

The description of this dish in the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (published in 1961 by Knopf Doubleday) is “Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms.” Let me just say – it is so much more than the sum of its individual ingredients. Wikipedia describes Beef Burgundy as “one of many examples of peasant dishes being slowly refined into haute cuisine. Most likely this particular method of slowly simmering the beef in wine originated as a means of tenderizing cuts of meat that would have been too tough to cook any other way.”

The dish itself was probably, in my opinion, made famous in the US by Julia Child and a cute little movie titled Julie and Julia.

I made this dish (after watching the movie and ordering the cookbook from Abebooks.com) with the help of a tag-team of friends a little over a year ago (ok, 15 months ago) and found it tedious, involved, demanding and picky. HOWEVER, without taking any short-cuts, I found this dish to taste absolutely heavenly when completed and slowly savored over young boiled potatoes served at an inviting table.

Simply put – in my words – this is a French Beef Stew with Booze made in heaven. Yes. That is my educated definition. Beef Stew with a built-in booze factor.

Now, being that I am from the south, I find recipes for soup, chili and stew to basically be “cook the meats a little and toss the raw ingredients together in a pot and heat for hours” sort of dishes. You can vary each ingredient as you see fit. Leave out what you don’t like. Put in more of what you do like. While I am a proponent of this sort of cooking – I find that it more than likely has a singular drawback; a lot of what I cook probably tastes fairly similar. I gravitate towards onion, garlic, pepper, salt, red pepper, potatoes… I must strive to make a recipe complete, from start to finish, ingredient by ingredient (even if I am turned off by any of the ingredients) to know if I like product from it and to stretch my "taste" repertoire. I do believe in using what you have just as my parents, grandparents and great grandparents did, but sometimes sucking it up and buying that extra ingredient really pays off!

Why, you might ask, am I blogging BEFORE the cooking event this time?  Because I can! And, this is such a huge recipe to me - I need to prepare!  Upside #1 - Mom is going to help prep. #2 - Boss is buying the ingredients because I am feeding work again!

My plan is to make Beef Burgundy every few weeks, as time and money allow, using various recipes, ingredients and techniques that I find. I want to know if taking the long route to stew heaven is truly worth it.

The recipe below is the basic recipe from Julia Child and her cadre. It does not have short cuts. There are many steps. From memory, I know that baking this in the oven is a better, providing a more even heat than on the stove-top. I will also do a little more research, before Friday, into marinating beef with red wine and see if doing that a day ahead is worth it.


• 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 (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

• 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) – Yea, I use the cheese cloth – but I place bottled spices within as this recipe is expensive enough!

• 1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Cooking Directions

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 (sealing in the juices nicely). 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. 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 the 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.

Serve with potatoes (my favorite), noodles or rice.

You can find a PDF version of the original recipe from Knopf Doubleday at http://knopfdoubleday.com/marketing/cooking/BoeufBourguignon.pdf

Okay, after reading the recipe and and looking at the link I provided (you know you either have or will) - tell me how desperate for good food does one have to be to embark on this mission.

Prepare for post cooking follow-up.
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