Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon
I finally did it! I made Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. It took me over 5 hours, but by golly I did it! *pat myself on the back* Every inch of the stew was marvellous – the beef, the onions, the mushrooms… and the rich beautiful sauce that was just oh so ooh-la-la French.
I’m sure most all of you are well acquainted with this cooking legend, but just in case, Julia Child was a famous American chef, TV personality and writer. She began her career in a US intelligence agency, but had to move to Paris two years after marriage when her husband Paul was sent on assignment there by the US State Department. In Paris she was introduced to the magical world of haute cuisine and it changed her life. She enrolled herself in Le Cordon Bleu, and thereafter began writing cookbooks and teaching cooking. She eventually snagged her own television show when she and Paul were back in the US.
At the moment Singapore is celebrating the entrance of culinary bigwigs like Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy into our dining scene, but personally my culinary heroes are the Julia Child’s of this world – real people who make real food and in the course of it often make very real mistakes, but who dare to pick up and carry on. I have to say that no one could ever pick up and carry on with quite the inimicable panache of Julia Child. Watch this little video up to the 2:30 mark and you will see what I mean:
Isn’t that just fantastic? =) Next time I burn something to a crisp, I’m just going to smile and say it’s perfect, just perfect.
And so it is with much pride and joy that I present to you one of Julia Child’s hallmark dishes, Boeuf Bourguignon.
Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon
(taken from here, with some bits re-organized or re-worded)
Click here for printable recipe.
Ingredients (serves 6):
1. Preheat oven to 230deg C (450 degF) with rack in the middle of the oven.
First you work with the bacon…
2. Remove bacon rind and set aside. Cut bacon into lardons (0.6cm thick and 4cm long sticks). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1.4 litres of water. Drain and dry. Set aside the rind. Sauté lardons in 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a big side dish with a slotted spoon.
The rind is the skin – the darker, tougher, outer layer of the bacon. Removing it if you use sliced bacon like I did is a lot of work, and not very necessary because it’s not very tough on sliced bacon. I would just leave it on and cut up the bacon into small slivers. But again, this is not ideal! Try to use chunk bacon.
Then the beef…
3. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat remaining fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. DO NOT OVERCROWD YOUR BEEF.
This is so important I cannot emphasize it enough – DRY YOUR BEEF. You want your cooked beef to be brown, not gray.
4. Remove beef and add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced carrot and onion. Pour out the excess fat. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Sprinkle the flour over the beef, and toss again to coat the beef lightly. (You should toss it enough that when you’re done you don’t see streaks or clumps of flour on the beef.)
4. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes to brown the flour and cover the meat with a light crust. Remove casserole and turn oven down to 160 degC (325 degF). Shift the rack to the lower third of the oven.
5. Stir in the wine and 0.3-0.7 litres (2 to 3 cups) of beef stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
Then the onions…
6. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 20g of butter with 1-1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet until bubbling. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break the onions, and don’t expect them to brown uniformly. Add 0.1 litres (1/2 cup) of the stock, salt and pepper to taste, and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Thanks to Wey I finally found some pearl onions at Fairprice Finest. Grossly overpriced, but so worth the trouble. The cooked onions added a wonderful smokey sweetness to the dish.
And the mushrooms…
7. Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and 30g of butter over high heat. As soon as you see that the butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as the mushrooms have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
Then you put it altogether…
8. When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven, and pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.
9. Skim fat off the sauce in the saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, 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 stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
Do adjust the seasoning to suit your taste. I think if I had remembered this bit I would have added just a tiny bit more salt.
10. Pour 2/3 of the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Cover the casserole, place it on your stove and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the remaining sauce several times.
11. Serve in the casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.
Ah, beautiful onions…
Set over a lovely stew…