Thursday, January 21, 2010

Becky and Julia

A while back, I formed a huge admiration for Julia Child as I read her memoir My Life in France. She was a remarkable woman. For instance, not many know that she did not even start cooking with any seriousness until age 36. She fell in love with French cuisine while living in France as a diplomat's wife, and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu cooking school. Because I enjoyed learning about her, I asked for a copy of her famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Christmas.
I've been looking through it for a few weeks, and finally decided it was time to try my very first recipe. I chose Boeuf Bourguignon which means Beef Stew in Red Wine with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms.
Julia recommended using a 3 lb. rump roast, and luckily Sprouts had them on sale for 40% off.
I cubed the roast into approximately 2 inch squares.
The next ingredient is a 6 ounce chunk of bacon. I didn't even know they sell it this way! It wasn't called bacon on the package. (It was called pork belly.) But I am guessing it is the same thing. And if it isn't, then please don't tell me now because it's too late.
After removing the rind, I had to cut the chunk o' bacon into strips a quarter of an inch wide by 1 1/2" long.
Then, I simmered the bacon strips in water for 10 minutes while preheating the oven to 450.
Let the browning commence! First, I removed the bacon from the water and browned it.
Then, I browned the cubes of beef.
Then I browned one sliced onion and one sliced carrot just for the heck of it. These two ingredients are never mentioned again after the browning stage. I had no idea what to do with them, so I guessed they were meant to be added to the bacon and beef. And now that Julia Child is gone, the world may never know.
Here is a cool part. Before adding the mysterious onion and carrot, I sprinkled 2 TBS of flour over the bacon/beef and browned it in the 450 degree oven for 4 minutes. Then, I took it out, tossed it, and put it back under for 4 more minutes. This creates a nice crust on the meat that added so much to the flavor of this stew.
Then, I added 3 cups of red wine. It was almost the entire bottle. I also added 2 cups beef broth, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 TBS tomato paste, and a 1/2 tsp. thyme.
That concoction goes into the oven at 325 for 2 1/2 hours. Though I turned mine down at some point and cooked it more like 4 hours. The length of time doesn't really matter and only adds tenderness.

But wait! That's only half the battle. While the bacon/beef/wine mixture is slowly cooking, there are two more major things to take care of...the onions and the mushrooms! Look at these adorable pearl onions. I had never bought these before. I love cute little things like tiny bottles of shampoo or lotion, so these onions were right up my alley.
I had to peel 24 tiny onions (which took about 8 hours), then saute them for 10 minutes in butter and olive oil. After they started to brown, I put the lid on them and let them simmer for 45 minutes.
I set the onions aside, and pulled out the mixture that had been cooking for 4 hours. If you're like me, instead of noticing the meaty goodness, you're thinking... Man, that pan is going to be a pain in the you-know-what to clean. I poured off the liquid to simmer in a pan on the stove.
I quickly sauteed about a pound of quartered mushrooms in butter and olive oil.
I layered the onions and mushrooms on top of the beefy, bacon-y goodness.
I was supposed to do some stuff with the liquid before I poured it back into the pot, but I got tired and skipped that step. It involved some skimming of fat, and thickening of the liquid. It didn't look too fatty or liquid-y to me, and by now I was ready to just get this stew done already.
I served the stew, and Cody and I sat down to eat. As I was taking my first bite he asked, "Now what do you call this stew again?" And my honest reply, as that first bite was lingering on my tongue was, "This...this is the best soup you have ever tasted in your life." It really was that good. And I am so glad it was, because I would have been terribly disappointed after all that work if it had been so-so.
My first time to make a Julia Child recipe was a success. I'm looking forward to many more.


Jenni said...

with the exception of the mushrooms that sounds divine!!! way to go for tackling such a complex dish!

Lauren C. said...

That looks delicious! I'm really impressed - I start to feel overwhelmed if a cookbook doesn't have pictures in it (that's why reading your blog was so nice).

Rachel said...

It looks absolutely delicious...good job!

Lynn Leaming said...

I see a Becky and Julia book/movie in your future :-) You have soooo much more patience than me, if you can't cook it in 30 minutes I don't even try.

Brandy said...

Looks yummy! I wonder if I could sub cornstarch for the flour? (I wouldn't want to poison Phillip's body!) Maybe I'll give it a try someday....