Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Beef Bourguignon and Channeling Julia Child

Many years ago I saw a television program that in some way changed my life. It was the French Chef with Julia Child.

Now I know that over the past few years there has been an enormous amount of press and interest in Julia Child's life and work due to both her portrayal in the book and film Julia and Julia and also because her shows were rebroadcast on the newly minted Cooking Channel. People of all ages know of her and even those who know little of her have of course heard of her now very famous version of the dish which features in the title of this blog entry.

So if you think that I am going to rehash and remake and lay laurels on the hallowed tomes that contain this recipe in print and in television media you are wrong. In fact I find it interesting that so many people have taken to the idea that one person could have the definitive recipe for a dish which comes from the countryside of France and is made by about as many people as make pot roast in the US.

Not to say that Ms.Child's recipe is not amazing. It is in fact just that. Near to tasty perfection as one could possibly get. But it is not the only recipe or method for making this hallowed dish. I say hallowed dish because it is to me one of the most iconic stews in the catalog of Western cooking and certainly one of the most favored in it's class.

I say it because her method while classic is one method. And it's a lot of work! A lot of work. So I will give you my recipe for Beef Bourguignon which I will say is also amazing. It is however slightly different from the original. However, given the reactions of people who have had it still pretty darn good. In fact it's very darn good.

Now my love and respect for Ms. Child is very deep and I credit her with my fascination with cooking and cooking television. I can remember her show coming on in reruns on Saturday afternoons and watching it with my Grandma. I was entranced by this somehow elegant and yet accessible lady and the interesting things one learned from her show about cooking and food.

The first time I ever had Beef Bourguignon was when I was 19 and living in Switzerland. One family I knew invited us over for dinner and the wife who was french made Beef Bourguignon. There in that dining room in the sparkling candle light I knew why it was an amazing dish. Succulent and rich it was the embodiment of winter comfort food. Incredible.

So when I about 10 years ago decided to make Beef Bourguignon I thought about using Julia's recipe. The problem was two fold. I was visiting a friend's mountain house and there was neither the internet nor was there a braising pot. However, there was a slow cooker and a slow cooker recipe booklet that had come with the crock pot. So inspired with this recipe and cooking tool I went to the market got the ingredients and made the dish. It was really good, no really. So I was satisfied that I had made the recipe to a respectable level and made it this way for years. Then it all changed.

My friend's Ken and Rick invited me over to a dinner party one evening and Rick announced that he had made Julia's Beef Bourguignon recipe and we would be having it for dinner. Well it was revelatory. Amazing, incredible. And I felt compelled to try it. So armed with the recipe I too made Julia's recipe and again the results were amazing. But oh my God it was a process.

So I decided there had to be an easier way with a few less steps. And I think I found it. It's been tried out a number of times and with some changes finally is to a point where I would say that if you want to make this dish and amaze people ( it certainly did at my birthday party this year) you can use my recipe. It's a little more work than a crock pot recipe but I won't kid you it's still based on it. So give it a try this fall or winter and let me know in the comments how it goes. Enjoy Ya'll!

Forrest's Beef Bourguignon Recipe
Serves 6 really well can serve 8

4 1/2 pounds of chuck stew meat cubed
oil for cooking
Four for coating the beef
1 white onion finely chopped
1 carrot finely diced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary powder
3 bay leaves dried
1 small can tomato paste
4 strips of bacon chopped
1 bottle rich red wine
2 cans beef broth
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 bag frozen carrot balls ( I buy them from Trader Joe's)
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 lb butter
1/4 cup brandy
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 300
In a large bowl toss the beef with enough flour to coat
In a heavy enameled baking casserole brown beef in batches till done
Don't overcrowd or the beef till steam ad you want some browning
Hold browned beef to the side
Cook the bacon till just done remove from pan leave the drippings
Cook the onions in the drippings till soft add carrots and cook another minute
Using some wine deglaze the bits from the bottom of the pan
Add the beef, the bacon, the tomato paste, the spices the salt and pepper and stir
Then pour in the rest of the wine and then add enough beef broth till just covered
Place in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours. At this point check with a fork to see if the meat is tender. If it is remove from the oven if not cook another 30 mins.
Once cooled a little take the beef from the liquid using a strainer or spider
Place the carrots and the pearl onions on a baking sheet
Turn oven to 375 and roast for 20 mins or until just done
Remove and set aside
With the liquid slightly cool now with a spoon skim off the fat
Turn the heat on high and boil till reduced by not quite half
Add butter and brandy and cook another 3 to 5 minutes then turn off heat
Season to taste with salt and pepper
Turn off heat and add the beef and the vegetables stir very gently to coat with the sauce
Place in the oven to reheat at 350 for another 20 to 30 mins till warmed through
Serve with mashed potatoes

1 comment:

  1. Julia is (was) awesome. I remember watching PBS as a child when she would come on after some kids' show, and I was always mesmerized by her. Many years later I learned that she was a close personal friend of one of my friend's moms (someone in the food industry) and I heard funny stories of when she would call. She'd say things (in the classic Julia voice) like "what is this, the frugal gourmeeeet?"