Guest post by Pat Reardon.
The BOOK arrived at the beginning of the month for my birthday. Barry lovingly bought it for me after I told him that it was the only thing I wanted. I think he was thrilled and grateful that I asked for “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” instead of diamonds.
So, what did I choose for the inaugural meal? Inspired by Julie Powell’s pitch in her book Julie and Julia, I’ve chosen the Boeuf Bourguignon. Yes, I know this dish has been done, redone, written about and deleted by bloggers all over the web. Frankly, I’ve done Beef Bourguignon in the past. It tasted like beef stew! So, why did I choose this dish??? Simple…from Julia Child’s intro to the recipe “….Carefully done and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man…”
How can I pass up the opportunity to really experience this delight?
We start with cubing and browning the beef. Julia is very clear that the beef must be washed and thoroughly dried or it won’t brown properly. A dozen paper towels later the beef was ready for the pot. You need to brown the 2” cubes on each side. Each cube has, count them, 6 sides. I think this was the most time consuming part of the entire recipe. When all the beef is browned and combined with the bacon and sautéed vegetables Julia has you toss them with a bit of flower to “harden” in a 450 oven for 8 minutes to crust the meat. Interesting step.
Now, the stew is ready for the wine and broth. I must say that I had a bit of a conundrum regarding the wine. Julia calls for a good burgundy. In spite of tips from Martha, Ina and Julia herself, I normally don’t cook with expensive wine. I’m going to serve it with a great jammy Napa Valley blend from Branham Estate, called Jazz. It is a blend of Zin, Cabernet, Sirah and Petite Sirah. But at $25 per bottle, it seems pricey for the cook pot. I compromised on a Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon. The liquids go into the pot and the pot is popped into the oven. You think that the work is done at this point? Not on your life.
After a few minutes cleaning up the kitchen I started braising the onions and browning the mushrooms. I cooked the mushrooms in three batches. I used more butter and olive oil than Julia called for but, what’s not to like about that? Julia’s instructions to sauté them at very high temperatures works. They didn’t release any of their liquid. The end result is a flavorful juicy mushroom. Yummy. At this point the pots and pans are mounting up and I’m beginning to wonder if this is really worth the effort. But, the aroma coming from the oven and the braising onions is enticing enough for me to press on.
I removed the beef from the oven after 3 hours. I had considerably more sauce than the 2½ cups that Julia called for. Out came another pan for the reduction. Fifteen minutes later, perfection. Simply wonderful. The beef is complete, assembled, cooled and per Julia’s recommendation that it be made at least 24 hours before eating, it is in the refrigerator waiting for dinner Sunday night. Total time elapsed: 4 hours
Time for me to sit down and try that last bit of Cabernet that didn’t go into the stock pot!
Update: Dinner Sunday was great. The sauce is fabulous. Was it the best beef dish concocted by man? I don’t think so. But I will say it was well worth the effort to make it.