Thursday, May 24, 2012

Julia's Boeuf Bourguinon

So, this post is long overdue. May's Daring Cook's Challenge was Julia Child's Beouf Bourguinon, made famous by that movie in which Meryl Streep was charming and Amy Adams was irritating. I've certainly been interested in making the dish because it seemed like some sort of cooking right of passage. I was pleased to get the challenge and I had a lot of fun making it. All day long.

It was delicious.

You know what else is delicious? The basic stew that my mum taught me to make. Both stews taste deliciously and comfortingly like stew, but one takes three times as much wine and five times as much effort. Maybe (maybe) if I did a side-by-side comparison Julia's Boeuf would come out ahead. But on the other hand, if I buy wine to add to the basic stew, I actually get to drink some of it.

I really enjoyed making and eating the Boeuf Bourguinon. I probably won't make it again.

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

What you'll need:
One 6 oz chunk of streaky bacon
Olive oil
THREE POUNDS of cubed stewing beef (yes, you'll eat this forever if it's just for you)
salt, pepper, flour
A bottle of decent red wine (you're going to dump the entire thing into your pot of raw meat)
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, julienne
2 cups beef stock
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 cloves diced garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
~20 pearl onions (I couldn't find any pearl onions, and so subbed in shallots), brown braised
          For braising the onions:
          1/2 cup brown stock
          a medium herb bouquet (bay, parsley, thyme. . . I totally missed this bit of the recipe)
1 lb mushrooms, more butter
Fresh parsley for garnish

What you'll do:
Chop the chunk of bacon into lardons and simmer them in a litre of water for 10 minutes. Drain and Dry. (In the future, I'd just chop up some bacon and fry it.) Saute the bacon in olive oil for a few minutes and then set aside, keeping the bacon-y pot/pan/casserole dish for your meat. If your chunk of bacon comes with a rind that you need to remove, poach that too and then toss it in with the stock later to simmer, removing it before serving the stew.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Dry the meat thoroughly with paper towels. Saute the beef in your bacon-y pot until it is brown on all sides, set aside. You'll probably need to do this in a few batches--if you crowd the meat, it won't brown properly.

Saute the onion and carrot in the same bacon-y pot. Return bacon and beef to the pot, grind in about 1/2 tsp pepper, add about 1 tsp salt and 3 tbsp (small handful) flour. Stir it up and toss the pot into the oven for 5 minutes in an attempt to get a nice crust on the meat (which it seems to me will wander off later when you're simmering the hell out of the whole thing). Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the wine, tomato paste, stock, garlic, bay leaf and thyme (and bacon rind if you've got it). Bring it all to a simmer on the stovetop, and then cover it and stick it in the oven again, adjusting the heat so that it simmers slowly for 2-4 hours.

Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in 2 tbsp butter and set aside. "Brown braise" the onions by sautéing them in some more butter and then simmering them slowly with the stock, salt and pepper to taste, and the herb bouquet. Julia says "until tender, 40-50 minutes" but my shallots were tender long before then. Maybe pearl onions are super dense, or maybe I'm hazy on the word "simmer". Set the onions aside with the mushrooms--you'll dump them all into the stew when it's finished.

When the meat is tender, strain the liquid into a saucepan, skim off the fat, and let it simmer down until it is thick enough to coat a spoon. Return the meat to your pot, or whatever dish you like, and cover with the mushrooms and onions. Pour the thickened sauce over the stew and return it to the stove top to heat through.

Eat and enjoy! Then again the next day! And again the next day!

Wanna know Mum's Basic Stew recipe?

Dredge meat in salt, pepper and flour. Brown the meat in some olive oil on medium-high heat and then set it aside. Soften onion and garlic in the same pot, adding more oil if necessary. Add beef broth and enough water/tomato/wine to cover all ingredients. Add the beef, some carrots, celery, or whatever other vegetables you like in stew along with your preferred combination of spices (perhaps a bay leaf and 1/2 tsp of thyme). Cover and simmer until the meat is tender (3-4 hours). Tadah! You can even mix it up by using orange juice as part of the liquid and adding rosemary. Or frying up some bacon first with extra onions and using beer with your stock. It's delicious. It's easy. It's economical. 

"Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France."

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