So remember how a couple of weeks ago – okay, more like a month ago – I was talking about how Amanda and I watched “Julie and Julia” and how I now simply HAD TO make Boeuf Bourguignon but I couldn’t because I didn’t have a Le Creuset casserole? Well, apparently my MOST AWESOME AND WONDERFUL NEIGHBOR JOHANNA reads my blog. She is possessed of a Le Creuset casserole the exact type that I required to fulfill my
lifelong month-long dream. One afternoon, before I got home from work but AFTER Bill was home from work (this is a key detail), she knocked on the door and presented Bill with this casserole, telling him I could now fulfill my lifelong month-long dream of making succulent, delicious, amazingly wonderfully tasty Boeuf Bourguignon ala Julia Child.
Anyway. So, I walk in the door after work and see this casserole sitting on the kitchen counter. I absolutely FREAKING SQUEE’D, recognizing what it was right away (of course). Bill looked at me like, “Really? It’s that exciting?” I said to him. “You. Did. NOT. You did NOT just buy me a Le Creuset casserole???? YOU DID NOT!” To which Bill responded with, “Well… no. I did not. Johanna read that you needed one to make that beef thingy you wanted to make, so she brought this over for you to borrow.” So, I was momentarily deflated, but unsurprised, because it would have been 1) a really big friggin’ shock if Bill had known me THAT well, to know how much I wanted one of these;, 2) had somehow kept the $350 purchase a secret from me; 3) had actually surprised me with it on, like, a Tuesday afternoon for no reason whatsoever.
And then I was all, HOW AWESOME IS JOHANNA???
She is the best. neighbor. EVER.
A couple of weeks passed before I had the opportunity to make the dish. Yesterday turned out to finally be the day, so I got started at noon on the button, the better to ascertain the timing of the preparation and cooking of Boeuf Bourguignon ala Julia Child. I looked up the recipe. I studied it. I pondered it. Then I went about changing things, because that’s just how I roll.
I kind of borrowed the best bits from the method of Julia Child and the method of Ina Garten, and made this recipe easier to deal with. For one, hey Julia? What the heck is a “lardon” of bacon? Is bacon even sold in solid chunks anymore? And why the heck did it need to be boiled? I just provided instructions to dice and sauté the bacon, which is what Ina recommended.
Also, Julia had much more complicated instructions for the onion and mushrooms, added near the end of the stew’s cooking time. Rather than fool with simmering the onions in broth for an hour, I just instructed that they be sautéed in olive oil and herbs. Your mileage may vary, if you’re using fresh whole pearl onions and you’re concerned that sautéing them won’t soften them enough to be added to the stew, then go ahead and use the instructions Julia provided.
Speaking of herbs, Julia seemed to like to use fresh, tied in sprigs, and then removed at the end. I like my herbs to remain in my dish, so I subbed for dried. Also, Julia wanted me to drain the stew of its broth and make separate sauce to be added back in, whereas Ina provided instructions for thickening the stew right in the pot. I went with the latter.
My family dislikes onions so I didn’t add the pearl onions in at the end, just the mushrooms.
Finally, Ina’s recipe called for the meat to be cooked for 1 ¼ hours at 250 degrees, where Julia’s was for 3-4 hours at 325. I very much doubted the meat would be done per the time and temp Ina indicated (I was right), so I went for the 325 degree setting and the meat was done at 3 ¼ hours. I started cold (with all the cutting/slicing/prepping yet to do) at noon exactly, and the food was ready to eat at 4:45 p.m.
Ina’s recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/beef-bourguignon-recipe/index.html
Julia’s recipe: http://www.recipezaar.com/Boeuf-Bourguignon-a-La-Julia-Child-148007
Of course, as soon as I finished chopping and cutting and slicing all of the ingredients (primarily the bacon and the beef), the new knife set that I was waiting for was finally delivered. I’d hope to break them in on this dish, but the timing was off. Still, aren’t they pretty?
• 8-12 ounces center cut bacon, diced
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2.5-3 lbs lean stewing beef (such as chuck roast), cut into 2-inch cubes
• 1 carrot, peeled and sliced (or 12 baby carrots, halved)
• 1 onion, peeled and sliced (my family dislikes onions, so I just quartered a large sweet onion and left it in chunks so they could pick it out)
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 3 cups red wine (a full bodied wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy or Chianti)
• 2-3 cups beef stock or broth
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 bay leaf
FOR THE BRAISED ONIONS
• 18-24 white pearl onions, peeled (again, my family dislikes onions so skipped the additional onions – frozen onions can also be used, drain and thaw first)
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• salt & fresh ground pepper
• ½ tsp tried thyme
• 1 tbsp dried parsley
FOR THE SAUTEED MUSHROOMS
• 1 lb mushroom, quartered (or halved if the mushrooms are small)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
2. Put one tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9″ – 10″ wide, 3″ deep) oven-proof casserole (such as a Le Creuset) and warm over moderate heat.
3. Sauté the bacon for about ten minutes to brown and lightly crisp.
4. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
5. Dry off the pieces of beef and sauté them in several batches in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. It’s important that the beef be dry or it will not brown properly. And we’re talking about cooking, like, ten or twelve pieces at a time, darlings. Don’t crowd the meat.
6. Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon. You are now done with the most labor-intensive part of the recipe.
7. In the same oil/fat, sauté the onion and the carrot until softened. Remove vegetables to a side plate.
8. Pour off the fat and return the bacon and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion.
9. Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.
10. Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes.
11. Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.
12. Now, lower the oven heat to 325°F and remove the casserole from the oven.
13. Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Scrape a spatula or flat whisk along the bottom of the casserole to deglaze the lovely brown bits. This will make for a delicious and nicely-colored sauce.
14. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.
15. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.
16. Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for three to four hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily. Check every hour until desired tenderness is achieved. For us, it’s when the meat falls apart easily.
17. At the end of the meat’s cooking time, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
18. Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and add the onions to the skillet. Sauté over medium heat for about ten minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart. Remove to a plate. (I skipped this part.)
19. For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large skillet. As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and toss and shake the pan for about five minutes. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat. Place on plate with onions.
20. When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven. Skim visible fat from the surface of the sauce, if desired.
21. Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat. Bring to a simmer on the stove and cook for 15 minutes. Skim fat as necessary/desired.
22. If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock.
23. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency, or dissolve two tbsp of flour in broth and add slowly to the stew. (For the record, the consistency of my dish was perfect and needed neither thickening nor thinning.)
24. Taste for seasoning.
25. Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley. Offer fresh crusty bread.
It turned out really freaking well. Even Bill was all, “Om nom nom nom,” which is the highest accolade he has to offer. I can now cross the making of Boeuf Bourguignon off of my bucket list. And DAMN, I’m buying me one of those casseroles. Price tag be damned.