Monday, January 18, 2010

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

Tonight was 'date night' at our house. With my husband starting his real estate class next week, we wanted spend the night doing something fun while we we're still able to share the evenings together. One thing we really enjoy are watching movies. We decided to tie in dinner and a movie the best way we know how... with a movie involving food!

The movie? Julie & Julia. If you haven't seen it yet, it's one I highly recommend. I think it was the perfect choice for my husband and I to watch together because we certainly could relate to the 'food-blogging' couple in the movie... and we think Julia Child was such an iconic person to the culinary arts.

The dinner? Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon of course! It was mentioned throughout the movie and prepared by two different characters as well. After watching Julie & Julia at the theatre for the first time, I had the biggest craving for this specific dish.

Just as the movie portrayed, Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon is heavenly. It does take some time to prepare but it's definitely worth every minute. Even my husband, who doesn't eat beef very often, made an exception tonight and he savored it. We both did. Just as I have been doing for a few dishes I've made recently, I prepared this dish in advance by doing it in stages...

First stage - Prepare the recipe up until it finishes braising for 2 1/2-3 hours in the oven. At that point, I let the pot cool and refrigerate it until the next day.

Second stage - Prepare the mushrooms and pearl onions; allow to cool and refrigerate until the next day.

Third stage - I removed the beef and vegetables from the sauce and allowed the remaining sauce to thicken and reduce. Once reduced, I added back the beef and vegetables to the pot, along with the mushrooms and pearl onions. I let everything heat up and serve.

I found that allowing the dish to cool and chill overnight really allowed the flavors to meld even more, making the dish amazingly rich and flavorful. It's a wonderful thing to enjoy this dish even on a weeknight, especially after taking the time to prepare in stages. As Julia Child would say, "Bon Appetit!"

Boeuf Bourguignon
recipe adapted from Julia Child
serves 6

6 ounces bacon
3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
1 cup baby carrots
1 sliced large onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp. thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 small white onions (white pearl onions)
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
Chopped chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in a dutch oven (no oil) over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. (The bacon will render and give off enough fat to cook with.) Remove the bacon from the pot and place in a bowl; set aside.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels - it will not brown if it is damp. Add the beef, a few pieces at a time, to the dutch oven to cook in the rendered bacon fat. Sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Remove the beef from the pot and add it to the bacon in the bowl; set aside.

If the bacon fat has been absorbed by sauting the beef at this point, feel free to add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. In the pot, brown the carrots and onions.

Return the beef and bacon to the pot and toss with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour over the meat in the pot and toss everything in the pot to coat the beef lightly with the flour. On the stovetop, heat the pot for about 2-3 minutes to lightly cook off some of the flour.

To the pot, stir in the wine along with the stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the pot and set in lower third of preheated oven. Allow the pot to braise very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms:

For the onions - place the unpeeled white pearl onions in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring the saucepan up to a boil over the stovetop and allow the onions to boil for about 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the water and cool. Cut off the ends of each pearl onion and remove the outer layer of skin. Once all pearl onions are peeled, saute the pearl onions in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter. Allow the pearl onions to caramelize. Remove from the skillet and set them aside to cool.

For the mushrooms - add 2 tablespoons of butter to the same skillet used to prepare the onions. Saute the mushrooms in the butter until caramelized. Remove from the skillet and set them aside to cool.

After the meat has braised, remove and strain the beef and vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl; set aside. With the remaining sauce left in the pot, allow it to simmer. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down rapidly to reduce and thicken. If it's too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning.

At this point, return the beef and vegetables to the thickened sauce, along with the caramelized pearl onions and mushrooms. Gently heat everything over a medium low heat and then serve. Garnish with chopped chives.