We watch the 2009 film “Julie and Julia” again on television. Meryl Streep really does seem to have nailed the great chef, but has she? We check. Not only does Meryl channel Julia’s voice perfectly, but she even has her mannerisms down pat. On YouTube there’s a marvellous comparison of the two of them, one from the movie and one from the French Chef, Julia’s iconic television series.Julia Child’s first television show from WGBH Boston is also posted on YouTube. She is cooking boeuf bourgignon.
I’m not going to try and emulate Julie, who cooked every recipe in Julia’s massive tome “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” a book which I’ve never actually owned (hint, hint!), but I’d like to offer some of my own favourite recipes from time to time, starting with this tribute to a great television chef.
BOEUF BOURGUIGNON (with acknowledgements to Julia Child and from page 76 of “How to Eat Well and Stay Single”)
Preparation time: 30-45 min
Cooking time: 3 to 4 hrs
This is the king of beef stews from the Burgundy district of France and proves the value of wine in cooking. It’s a perfect comfort food for those days when the wind chills the bones to the marrow, and when the hearty aroma makes you decide life is worth living after all.
3 lbs lean beef chuck, cut into 2 inch cubes
6 oz bacon, cut into 1/4 inch by 1 1/2 inch lardons
3 cups Burgundy or dry red wine
2 cups beef stock (or beef bouillon, not consommé)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 mashed garlic cloves
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
18 – 24 white pearl onions, peeled
1 lb mushrooms, washed and quartered
sprigs of fresh parsley for garnish
large frying pan
large ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven
a couple of old plates
large sharp knife
mixing bowl or jug
PREPARATION AND COOKING
1. Prepare the bacon:cut the bacon into 1/4 inch by 1 1/2 inch strips or lardons, simmer in water for about 10 min, drain and dry, then sauté in 1 tbsp olive oil until brown. Remove to the casserole.
2. Prepare the beef: cut into 2 in chunks and dry thoroughly. Sauté in bacon fat and oil until brown on both sides. (TIP: do not crowd the beef or it will steam and not brown.) Remove to casserole.
3. While these are cooking peel and roughly chop the onion, peel and roughly chop the carrot, and add to the casserole with 1 whole sprig of fresh thyme, 1 fresh bay leaf and 2 mashed garlic cloves.
4. Deglaze the pan: add 2 cups of good red wine to the mix of bacon fat, oil and beef scraps. Simmer briefly and add 1 tbsp tomato paste and 2 cups beef stock.
5. Assemble the casserole and cover with the sauce so that the meat is just covered. Add up to 1 cup more red wine if necessary.
6. Heat the oven to 350oF/165oC, simmer covered for 3 hrs, checking and stirring occasionally. It’s done when the meat is tender to a fork.
7. Close to the time you want to serve prepare the onions and mushrooms. (TIP: blanch the onions in boiling water to make peeling easier.)
8. Sauté the peeled onions in butter and oil and simmer covered in 1 cup water for 25 min or until they are tender but holding their shape. (TIP: butter alone burns, heat the oil and butter together until it stops foaming.)
9. Sauté the washed and quartered mushrooms in butter and oil until lightly browned, about 5 min. (TIP: cut the stalks separately on a bias.)
10. Now’s the time to assemble everything: First take the casserole from the oven and drain the good sauce into another pan through a sieve. Discard the carrot, onion and herbs and return the beef and bacon to the casserole.
11. Taste the “wine dark sauce” (Julia’s phrase) and add salt and pepper, plus more tomato paste or garlic until it is just right, then thicken the sauce with 1 tbsp flour per cup of sauce, mixed thoroughly with approx 1 tsp butter, added and brought back to the boil briefly. (NOTE: This is Julia’s method of thickening. I prefer to make a ROUX with the same ingredients and add the sauce to the roux.
12. Add all the other ingredients and mix together. (TIP: at this stage you can cool and set the covered casserole in the fridge for up to 2 days before serving. It will taste even better. Just bring back to a simmer on the stove top before serving.)
13. Serve the beef stew in the casserole with lots of finely chopped parsley sprinkled over the top and crusty French bread on the side.
NOTE: I have modified Julia’s TV recipe with my own and used my own format, based on the one I developed for my 1974 book “How to Eat Well and Stay Single,” which includes “weapons” followed by simple to follow numbered steps. Recipes and items in CAPS refer to other items in past or future blogs or shortcuts and tips.
Ladies, please don’t be offended by the naked girl on the cover. In the 70s it was intended to be an ironic comment on the sexual mores of the day, and in my own defense, it was entirely the idea of the publisher (a woman, I might add), who discovered the model on the cover of the long defunct Success Magazine.
Each and every recipe in my blog has been personally tested, cooked and often eaten by friends.
A separate serving of vegetables is not necessary since vegetables are included in the stew, but boiled and buttered NEW POTATOES or MASHED POTATOES make a fine accompaniment.
It would only be fair to serve a soft, full bodied red Burgundy with a dish such as this, but if you don’t have that available, make sure the wine is dry. Preferably serve the same wine you used to cook with. And that doesn’t mean drink a cheap cooking wine, but rather cook with a good drinking wine.
Last week friends dined with us and declared my boeuf bourgignon excellent. We drank a very good Wolf Blass 2010 Pinot Noir, which I also used to cook with.
PS: Please leave a comment, if you found something useful or interesting in this recipe. Or please add your own variations for others to share.