Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon

It would be impossible to get through the 12 Days of Oscar, featuring food inspired by (or directly from) films, without mentioning the 2009 film Julie & Julia.  Julie & Julia was nominated in the Best Actress in a Leading Role for Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child.

Julie Powell (Amy Adams) decides to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, tracking her progress through a blog, The Julie/ Julia Project, which develops quite a following.  The film is based on the book Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen as well as Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) autobiography My Life in France.  It chronicles not only Julie or Julia’s culinary ups and downs, but also their personal ups and downs as well.

The film is full of eye-catching food from beginning to end, and there are a lot of great recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking that were contenders here.  One of my favorite sequences is when Julie, excited about a dinner guest, goes to the market and proudly tells the butcher she’s making “Julia Child’s beef bourguignon.”  She then falls asleep during the preparation, burning it.  She then calls out of work the following day to re-prepare it, only to have the dinner guest cancel later in the day.  Seeing this unfold, I kept thinking this could just as easily have happened to me.

I’m happy to report that did not happen to me.  This was a truly fantastic dinner, and only tasted better the next day, reheated.  The first time, I served it over egg noodles, and the second time I had it as Julia suggested, with buttered peas and potatoes.  Absolutely fantastic, and it makes enough to feed a crowd.  It’s really worth the effort, but it does take a long time to prepare.  Then again, anything worth mastering, including French cooking, is worth the time.

Beef Bourguignon

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. chunk of bacon
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 3 C. full bodied red wine (such as Burgundy)
  • 2-3 cups beef stock
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1 bayleaf, crumbled
  • 18-24 pearl onions, brown braised in stock (recipe follows)
  • 1 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms, sautéed in butter (recipe follows)

Directions:

Remove the rind from the bacon, cut bacon into sticks 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long (lardons).

Simmer the rind and the bacon in 1 1/2 quarts of water for ten minutes.  Drain and dry.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Saute the bacon in the oil for 2 to 3 minutes over moderate heat in a 9-10 inch wide,  heavy, oven-safe, dish at least 3 inches deep (I used an enamel cast iron Dutch oven) to brown slightly.  Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Reheat the casserole until the fat is almost smoking before adding the beef.

Pat the beef dry with paper towels (or it won’t brown), and saute it a few pieces at a time in the hot bacon fat and oil until nicely browned on all sides.  Remove and add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced carrot and onion, remove to a side dish, and then pour out the cooking fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole.  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, toss to season evenly.  Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to lightly coat the beef with the flour.

Put the casserole uncovered in the lower third of the preheated oven.

Bake for 4 minutes, stir, and bake for an additional 4 minutes.

Remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, then add enough of the beef stock so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, herbs, garlic, and the bacon rind.

Bring to a simmer on the stove.

Cover the casserole and set it in the lower third of the oven.

Simmer in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the beef is easily pierced by a fork.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms (recipes follow).

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve placed over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the meat to it.

Distribute the onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim the fat off of the sauce.  Simmer for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as needed.

The sauce should coat the back of a spoon lightly.  If it’s too thin, add some beef stock.  If it’s too thin, boil it rapidly.

Taste for seasoning, and pour over the meat and vegetables.

Cover the casserole, bring to a simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting with the sauce several times.

To make the pearl onions:

Peel the onions.

Put 1 1/2 Tbs. butter and 1 1/2 Tbs. oil in a heavy skillet and heat until it bubbles.

Add the onions and saute over moderate heat for 10 minutes, rolling the onions around so they brown as evenly as possible (they will not brown completely evenly).

Add 1/2 cup of beef stock, salt and pepper, and an herb bouquet consisting of 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 a bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp. thyme tied up in cheesecloth.

Cover and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes until they are soft but still retain their shape.

Remove the herb bouquet before adding to the casserole.

To make the mushrooms:

Place a 10 inch enameled skillet over high heat with 2 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. oil.

As soon as the butter has begun to stop foaming, add the mushrooms.  You may not be able to add all of the mushrooms, if you crowd them they won’t brown.

Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes.

The fat absorbed by the mushrooms will reappear after 2-3 minutes and then the mushrooms will start to brown.

Remove browned mushrooms and repeat process until the pound of mushrooms needed is browned.

 Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

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