Julia Child's Recipes. My Kitchen.

Follow along as I cook from volumes 1 and 2 of the culinary classic - with a modern makeover.

Beef Bourguignon, Re-Mastered

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why is it that when I say I’m making beef à la bourguignon for dinner, it sounds so much more fancy-pants than if I’d mentioned I was boiling up some beef stew? It must be the French accent, although I hardly have one of those.

The bourguignon part of this dish refers to the bacon, mushrooms, red wine and pearl onions, which are traditional ingredients in the regional cooking of Burgundy, France. Throw in potatoes and beer instead and you’d have yourself a fine Irish beef stew.

As for stew; beef bourguignon is a version of one – basically, meat that’s first been browned, covered in aromatic broth and then braised slowly in a covered pot; but as my friend M said after she sampled it the other day, the result is a few notches higher in quality than the contents of your usual can of Dinty Moore. Well, many notches, actually.

Red wine adds a rich complexity; as the alcohol boils away it leaves behind the syrupy fruit flavor of grapes along with a hit of tanginess; a little flour binds the fat, broth and wine together into a silky, delicious sauce.

Julia’s recipe for beef bourguignon has a starring role in Julie & Julia and is the one dish that most people seem to be hungry for the minute they leave the theater. I saw the movie on a hot, humid day in August – hardly the kind of day that leaves a person begging for a hearty bowl of meat- but l felt an intense craving for a taste of it nonetheless.

When I finally got around to making my version of the recipe that appears in MTAOFC {page 314}, autumn was well underway, which is a good thing because the kitchen gets a tad warm after hours with the oven on. In fact, that might be the most difficult part of cooking beef bourguignon – this is not a spur-of-the-moment kind of recipe, but at least most of the cooking takes place while your off doing something else.

I didn’t tinker very much with Julia’s directions, just simplified some steps and substituted shallots for the pearl onions. I don’t know about you, but to me peeling pearl onions feels like a tedious chore.

I hate tedious chores. Plus, I think shallots have a lot more flavor and personality than watery little onion balls, anyway.

I pre-season the beef and let it sit for a bit before cooking to add a more flavor, and instead of cooking the mushrooms and carrots for hours and hours with the beef, I cook them shortly before serving and add them to the finished dish; I think it tastes and looks more modern and fresh.

And despite what those fussy-sounding French words for beef stew might make you think, this is not an expensive dish to prepare by any means. Even if you spring for grass-fed beef from Whole Foods as I did, the cost per person amounts to less than $10. Go ahead and invite some friends over for dinner.

Or not...leftover beef bourguignon tastes even better.

Beef Bourguignon, Re-Mastered

3 pounds beef {for best results, choose rump, chuck roast, sirloin tip, top or bottom round}, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups drinkable but-under-10-bucks red wine
3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
6 pieces chopped, cooked bacon {roast on a baking sheet 15 minutes at 400 degrees}
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound crimini or baby bella mushrooms
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Fresh chopped thyme and/or parsley for garnish

1. Pat the beef pieces with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture – dry beef browns better than wet beef. Toss the beef in a large bowl with the salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Marinate at room temperature for about an hour, or cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place a large, ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and let it heat for a minute or two. Arrange a third of the beef in a single layer on the bottom of the pan and brown on all sides – this will take about 10 minutes. This is an important step; adding all the beef at once will steam rather than brown the meat. What you want is a nice dark brown color on the exterior of the beef, so try not to fiddle with it until you see the juices beginning to brown – be patient! Remove browned beef to a platter and repeat with the remaining beef.

3. Put all the beef back into the pot and sprinkle with flour, stirring to coat evenly. Cook for a few minutes to lightly cook the flour. Pour in the wine and enough stock to just barely cover the beef. Stir in the tomato paste and toss in the bay leaf and bacon. Lay a sheet of parchment paper {or aluminum foil} over the pot and top with the lid.

4. Transfer the whole thing to the oven and cook for 1 hour. Take a peek to be sure that the liquid is not boiling madly; it should be gently bubbling. Adjust the oven heat by 25 degrees as needed, up or down. Continue cooking another 2 hours or so, until the beef is very tender when you poke it with a fork.

5. While the beef is in the oven, sauté the shallots in a 10-inch skillet lightly coated with olive oil until they begin to brown. Add a pinch of salt and the mushrooms, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are softened. Set aside.

6. Put the carrots in the same skillet with ¼ cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the carrots and add to the mushroom mixture.

7. When the beef is ready, stir in the carrots and mushrooms. Taste the sauce and season with additional salt and pepper as necessary. Sprinkle with thyme and parsley to add some green. Serve in bowls with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and warm, crusty bread.
Serves 6.

Inspired by a recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, p. 315


deeluna said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere, I'm looking forward to your posts. After days of this grey and spitty weather, this stew sounds DREAMY!

elfinpdx said...

Wow, you made me (a person who almost never eats or wants to eat beef) want to eat this! Yum.

ducttapellfixit said...

ummm hasn't this been done? way to copy the movie AND simplify something that's already been simplified. original.

Madame K said...

Dee and Elf, now that fall has sprung I'm so in the mood to eat food like this, which is probably good while I cook through the hearty meat chapters!

ducttapellfixit, I'm sorry that you seem to be disappointed with my lack of originality. At least I get to eat some good food while I play copycat. Cheers.

Etnier said...

I cooked this last night; very much enjoyed it. I'm going to keep this recipe for sure.

I remastered the remaster a bit, adding the mushrooms and shallots an hour from the end of cooking and the carrots half an hour from the end. I figured that since I was using a boxed beef stock (I used to make beef stock for Sauce Espagnole but haven't in years, since DemiGlace Gold came out), I'd want the vegetable flavors to integrate with the stock.

I think that were I to do it again I'd go further and use half homemade chicken stock and half boxed beef stock to minimize the (minimal) prepared-food effect.

As a technical note I'd mention that I found one or two instances where ingredients were to be 'set aside' and the pan used for another purpose. For me: 'set aside' means that: I set the pan aside. It might be better to write "Remove from pan to a small bowl and set aside"

Niggle niggle niggle.

The Park Wife said...

I am trying this tonight. Thanks for the recipe and commentary. Wish me luck!
The Park Wife

Netty said...

In ref to Madame "Ks" October 18 response to ducttapellfixit...who cares if Madame "K" is copying the spirit of the book/movie. I never followed the first blog, and this makes it easy for those who don't want to cut through a recipe that is a little more complex. Who has the time? After watching Julie & Julia, I do want Ms. Child's book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," but Madame "Ks" blog is "practical" with a spin all her own. Hey, I'm going to peek every now and again to see what's "cooking" :-). I think MKs blog is a marvelous idea!

Special MOM said...

Why do you roast the bacon instead of boiling it as Julia does? just curious.. i made it tonight so I find your interpretation interesting! (in a good way)

CaptPoco said...

Yay! The blog based on the movie, based on the blog based on the book. I can't wait!

Btw, the whole point of having bacon in the recipe is so you can brown the meat in the leftover bacon fat. Cooking the bacon seperatly defeats the whole purpose...

However, I liked this blog, (otherwise why would I be reading it) especially the photos. Maybe some big publisher will see this blog and give you a book and movie deal. ahahahahahaha No sorry, but you have to admit it's pretty easy to make potshots at something like this.

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