“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” ~ Julia Child, My Life in France
|“To be a good cook you have to have a love of the good, a love of hard work, and a love of creating.” |
~ Julia Child, Particular Passions: Talks With Women Who Have Shaped Our Times
After I prepared Beef Bourguignon for Christmas last year, my husband remarked that it was likely the best dinner he had ever eaten; in this life, and possibly the next. High praise from a man that is not profuse with his compliments. For a rustic stew born of French peasants, the dish has reached legendary status. Rightly so.I like to experiment in the kitchen, but after one or two failed starts early in my married life, I made an agreement many years ago with my husband that the first time I make a recipe, I will follow it as written. In this way I have a baseline of the flavor profile and technique. If I choose to make the recipe again, I am free to improvise to my heart's content and am able to compare and contrast and understand if my changes were favorable. So was the case with this classic recipe. Last December I followed Julia Child's recipe almost to the letter with the exception of adding a great big helping of my homemade demi-glacé. I felt Julia would surely approve of the addition, so I didn't sweat the decision to alter the recipe just a wee bit.
|“You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - |
just good food from fresh ingredients.” ~ Julia Child
|“Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.” ~ Julia Child|
Besides making the mother lode of Bourguignon, I also made, on the same day, a gargantuan pot of pinto bean chili con carne. Since it's that time of year, to the chili I added fresh chilies from Hatch, New Mexico that I roasted on the grill. All in all, I cut and browned twelve pounds of meat for preparing the two dishes in volume. It was a long day in the kitchen but I felt the time and effort were worthwhile to do this type of cooking in advance before heading into the hectic holiday season. I always feel pressed for time during the last two months of the year. Hopefully, this strategic preparation of meals will provide a measure of inner peace when I am feeling the most stress. I also froze a portion of chili to pair with Sonoran Hot Dogs, a specialty of Tucson, also an advance meal plan for Sistercation.
|“It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it.” |
~ Julia Child, My Life in France
Both dishes were finished in time for dinner. My husband, his brother and friends arrived home from an afternoon of dove hunting to a heavily - or is that heavenly - scented kitchen and house. Our friend Ben remarked during dinner, "I sure was happy to see that big pot of chili." They all looked longingly at the Beef Bourguignon, but as the French might remark, "C'est la vie." That's life. It is good to have something to look forward to, even if it is something as simple and elegant as Beef Bourguignon, the king of stews.
|“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to |
have a what-the-hell attitude.”~ Julia Child
One ingredient change makes this recipe gluten-free, both are related to substituting Mochiko rice flour for all-purpose flour. First I made homemade demi-glacé with rice flour. There is a school of thought that deems the addition of flour to demi-glacé as unnecessary. Just the same, I like to add it. In my shopping adventures I have not discovered a commercially prepared gluten-free demi-glacé. It might exist, but I haven't found it. Secondly, in this recipe the beef cubes are dredged in flour. In Julia's recipe, the beef cubes are not dredged in flour, so it can be skipped, especially since the sauce will be drained and thickened, as needed, to the right consistency. Again, I liked dredging the beef in Mochiko flour fry frying.
Julia Child did not call for demi-glacé in her classic recipe. I think it is worth the effort to make the demi-glacé for this recipe, especially since the demi-glacé can conveniently be prepared and frozen months in advance. After making demi-glacé, I always boil the bones a second time to make a lighter stock called remouillage. I don't mind going the extra mile to produce a sublime, unforgettable dish like this to wow my guests and family.
This recipe is adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking 50th Anniversary Edition by Julia Child with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck. As Julia notes, boiled potatoes are traditionally served with this dish. Buttered noodles or steamed rice are also suitable accompaniments. As for me, I prefer buttermilk infused mashed potatoes.
|The oven fried bacon was prepared a day in advance and the fat reserved.|
12-ounces bacon, I prefer uncured and thickly sliced; oven fried and fat reserved
7 to 8 pounds chuck pot roast, cut into 2-inch cubes, excess fat trimmed and discarded
3 medium carrots, diced
2 medium yellow onions, diced
about 1 cup Mochiko rice flour (gluten-free) or all-purpose flour for dredging
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 750-ml bottles of a full-bodied, young red wine such as Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bourdeaux-St. Émilion, Burgundy or Chianti
about 6 cups beef stock, or homemade remouillage
about 1 cup demi-glacé, optional, but highly recommended
2 Tbsps tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
2 small bags fresh pearl onions (shocked in boil water, then peeled), or commercially prepared and frozen pearl onions, defrosted
1 cup beef stock, remouillage, or dry white wine
3 Tbsps butter
3 Tbsps olive oil
2 pounds fresh mushrooms, cleaned and dried well, and left whole if small, or quartered if medium to large
8 Tbsps (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup olive oil
rather large soup pot
cast iron skillet, optional
|The recipe doesn't call for it but I tossed the cubed meet in sea salt, black pepper |
and gluten-free Mochiko rice flour.
|The meat sizzles and browns in hot, tasty bacon fat.|
|The browned meat is piled on a large baking sheet and reserved until ready to |
add to the softened vegetables and red wine.
1. Prepare the oven fried bacon and reserve the fat. Slice the bacon into generous bite-sized pieces. Prep the beef by cutting into 2-inch cubes, trimming and discarding any large veins of fat. Dry the cubed beef in paper towels because the meat will not brown if it is damp. In a medium size bowl, stir together the Mochiko rice flour (or all-purpose flour), 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Toss the cubes, a few at a time, in the flour and transfer to a cookie sheet. Repeat until all the cubes are covered with flour.
2. Adjust oven rack to lower third of oven and preheat to 325°F.
3. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, when hot, add a couple of glugs of olive oil, then diced onions and carrots. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes over medium-low to medium heat. While the vegetables are cooking, begin browning the meat.
4. In a large cast iron skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat over medium high heat. Sauté the beef cubes, in batches to avoid overcrowding, and fry in the bacon fat until the cubes are nicely browned on all sides. Remove the browned pieces to a large baking sheet and reserve. Repeat process, adding more bacon fat if needed, until all the meat is browned. Adjust the heat to medium, if needed, if the skillet becomes too hot.
|For my quadruple preparation I used two pans to soften the yellow onions and carrots.|
|The next step is to finely dice the garlic cloves.|
6. When finished browning the meat, deglaze the skillet with about 1/2 cup red wine. Scrape up the browned bits and transfer the deeply flavored wine mixture to the large soup pot. Add the browned beef, the remaining contents from the second bottle of wine and the remoulage (or beef stock) and the demi-glacé (it's fine to add frozen cubes directly from the freezer). Bring the stew to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the soup pot and transfer to the preheated oven. Regulate the heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. If you have an oven that runs hot, you may need to lower the temperature to 300°F. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
|Thick and delicious homemade demi-glacé has incredible depth of flavor. |
Once prepared, and cooled, I divide the sauce into ice cube trays and freeze.
8. For the onions: Place a wide and large enameled or non-stick skillet (or pan) over high heat with the butter and oil. When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown the onions uniformly. Pour in the liquid, season to taste with sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has evaporated. Reserve until needed.
9: For the mushrooms: Place a wide and large enameled or non-stick skillet (or pan) over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat. Drain mushrooms, discarding fat and reserve mushrooms.
|Bear in mind that this big pot of stew will serve 24 people because I quadrupled the recipe.|
The vegetables and bacon are strained from the sauce and returned to the meat.
11. Skim the fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If it is too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock and a couple additional cubes of frozen demi-glace (yum!). If the sauce is too thin, boil it down rapidly until it is thicker. Taste carefully for seasoning and adjust as needed. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
12. Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve the stew over boiled potatoes, buttered noodles, prepared rice or mashed potatoes. Garnish with minced parsley, if you like.
|“Remember, 'No one's more important than people'! In other words, friendship is the most important thing--not career or housework, or one's fatigue--and it needs to be tended |
and nurtured.” ~ Julia Child, My Life in France