Since seeing “Julie and Julia” Nora Ephron’s hit movie, I knew that I had to revisit Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child’s famous book, and prepare Boeuf Bourguignon. I purchased all of the ingredients and invited our son to enjoy the meal with us. I included a recipe from one of Ina Garten’s cookbooks, “Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes” as an accompaniment.
Knowing that the beef recipe was better the second day I prepared the dish on Saturday and we planned to enjoy it on Sunday. The recipe really isn’t too difficult, however the 2 1/2 pages in the book can be intimidating. For those of you who have never used Mastering the Art…, Julia’s attention to detail and precise instruction for the seasoned cook as well as the novice, is what makes the recipes so lengthy. When I prepared the recipe this go around I used the L.A. Times version which takes one little shortcut, they prepare the mushrooms and boiling onions with the beef. I took it a step further and used frozen boiling onions.
In any event, Sunday arrived and with some anticipation I set the table for the 3 of us, made the mashed potatoes and as I was plating the food my son walked up and said, “Wow, beef stew, it looks great!” Right then and there it dawned on me that that is exactly what it was, beef stew. Not that there is anything wrong with beef stew but the image is different from that of Boeuf Bourguignon—what is it about the French language that makes everything sound better? I laughed and we sat down and dined on perfectly tender beef, browned carrots and delightful mushrooms and pearl onions, cooked in a wonderful wine sauce. Follows is the recipe I used (more or less) from the Los Angeles Times. I have listed what I did in place of the more involved instructions.
1 (6-ounce chunk of bacon) (I used thick sliced bacon)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (I used a chuck roast)
1/2 pound mushrooms, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
1 carrot sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups of full-bodied young red wine
2-3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 tablespoon butter
24 small white boiling onions, peeled (I used 1 bag of frozen boiling onions
Parsley for garnish.
Cut the bacon into pieces 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long. Cook the bacon in 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat in a 5-to 6 quart heavy, flameproof casserole until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Reheat the casserole until the fat is almost smoking before you cook the beef. Dry the beef with paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Cook 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 bowl. In the same fat, brown the mushrooms over medium heat and set aside (if there is no fat left in the pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to brown the mushrooms). Add the carrot and brown onion and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour out any fat. Return the beef to the casserole with the vegetables and toss with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set the casserole uncovered in the oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to the oven 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove the casserole and turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Stir in the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste garlic, thyme, bay leaf and the bacon. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove Cover the casserole and set in the lower third of the oven. Regulate the heat so the liquid simmers very slowly for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily. Meanwhile, heat the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet when the butter foams add the boiling onions (if you use frozen, allow them to thaw in a strainer in the sink before this step). Cook, stirring the onions, so they brown evenly, about 5 minutes. When the beef is halfway done, add the onions to the casserole to finish cooking. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole (if you’re serving the stew from it at the table) and return the beef, vegetables and bacon to it. Skim the fat from the sauce, if necessary, and simmer the sauce 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. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables and mushrooms. Simmer 2 o 3 minutes basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve from the casserole or arrange on a large deep platter and serve, decorated with fresh parsley