Friday, 4 October 2013

Beef Bourguignon

Well it just so happens that today, I am in a very fine mood. It's Friday. So it's already a good day. And we've had the most beautiful fall weather imaginable. And I think today calls for a celebratory dinner. So I'm going to make a nice Beef Bourguignon. Now I know you're already thinking of Julia Child since she pretty much set the standard for this meal. Or in fact, the movie they made - Julie and Julia. Either way, Julia (the real chef) was a French trained chef at Le Cordon Bleu. So it goes without saying that she knew her shit. As a young wife and mother, I wanted to make something amazing like that, but I didn't have a clue what a lardon of bacon was and her recipe looked like something written by the hand of an alien from another planet when I was in my young twenties. I really felt she took it right over the top and tried to intimidate all of us young, new housewives with an interest in cooking for our sexy new husbands. So I'm still kind of mad at her for that. And I sort of think that was the point of the movie.  BUT, as the years (decades) have passed and I've looked at hundreds of copycat recipes, I realize that Julia had it right. I still think her recipe is too complicated and over the top. But what she did do was keep it fresh. I've seen recipes that call for frozen onions. That is a travesty to me. I'm all about fresh ingredients because you can taste the difference. And please young cooks, don't ever get in the habit of using anything canned or frozen or jarred. I jar my own tomatoes for God sake, and I would always still use fresh if I can get my hands on them. My motto in life is this - W.W.T.F.D. What Would the French Do? And I adore all things French. So some recipes call for this to be served on top of garlic toast. Not French (although it sounds delish!) Or on top of rice or pasta such as Julia did. Still not entirely French though. I like to serve it just as a stew with a side of arugula and a sliced baguette that you can slather with butter and dip as you go along. Of course I would have lipstick on, some wonderful scent of Chanel and most likely, a scarf type accessory draped around my neck as I was serving this. Hahaha NOT! But I wish! Let's go! You'll need about 3 hours.

You'll need:
2 pounds of beef cut into bite sized inch chunks. You can use stewing beef or chuck.
1/2 pound of bacon or pancetta or pork belly chopped. The idea is that you're browning your meat in yummy pig fat!
a splash of olive oil
1 peeled and thickly sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of good, bold red wine. (The best is to use a burgundy since this dish is named after it)
2 cups of beef stock
1 tablespoon of tomato paste (why can't somebody invent a tube to sell this in? I hate wasting a whole can of tomato paste for only needing a tablespoon.)
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
some freshly chopped parsley
24 fresh pearl onions
a pound of mushrooms cut into quarters. Quality counts here. So use the freshest you can get and any mushroom you like, or a combination of a few.
1/2 cup of butter
fresh French bread to serve it with

Cut up your beef and toss it into a plastic bag with the flour and some salt and pepper and shake to coat the beef. Use a Dutch oven for this if you have one, or a pot that can go from burner to oven. Brown your bacon on Med heat until it's fairly crispy, but not too much so, and remove the bacon and set aside. Add your beef a few at a time and brown them on all sides in the bacon fat. If it's sticking too much, add just a splash of olive oil to loosen them. If you run out of bacon fat, add a little splash of olive oil to keep browning. When all the beef is browned, set it aside with the bacon. Drain off any fat in the pot if there is any. In the meantime, sauté your sliced onion and carrots in a bit of olive oil for about 8 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to use too high heat and scorch them. Med low heat is good. You just want them softened and golden. Add your minced garlic in after about 6 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325. While your pot is empty, add a small splash of wine to deglaze it and scrape up the bits. Add all of your meat and bacon and carrots and onion back into the pot and add your wine and beef broth, season with salt and pepper, add the tomato paste and just 1 sprig of thyme and 1 bay leaf. Bring this up to a simmer and give it a stir once in a while. Cover it and put it in the oven for about 2 1/2 or 3 hours or until the meat is very tender.

While the meat is roasting, peel all of your little onions and sauté them in some butter and olive oil until they are golden brown. These are delicate and you want to leave them whole, so just gently shake the pan and let them roll around to brown, Then add about 3/4 cup of beef broth, salt and pepper and your other sprig of thyme and a bay leaf and let them simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated. About 45 minutes. Just let them simmer slowly and don't stir so they'll hold their shape. Saute your mushrooms in butter until they are browned. About 1/2 an hour before you serve, add the onions and the mushrooms into your beef pot, stir it all up and let it continue to cook with the lid off the pot. Taste your seasoning and just before serving, sprinkle with your parsley and serve it up with your French bread.

And that's all she wrote folks. I don't know why I was so petrified of making this all those decades ago. It seemed like such a monumental task at the time. Hahah I guess youth has no time or patience for cooking in stages! Now this dish is a pleasure to make. Enjoy friends!

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