V is Victory!

I came. I cooked. I conquered.

Oh, the road was a long and weary one. One that involved nearly 5 hours of my Sunday. One full of cursing and causalities. Handfuls of quartered mushrooms tumbling off the counter and on to the floor. CRAP! The unfortunate discovery of a (newly purchased the day before) sprouty head of garlic. DAMN! The side of my thumb slipping off the potholder and sizzling against the handle of a dutch oven that had just spent the last three hours in a hot oven. $#&@!!!!!!!!

Ah, but in the end – with my feet tired, my hair a mess and my shirt stained. With my mushrooms rescued, my garlic desprouted, and my thumb thoroughly bandaged, the sweet (or savory, if you want to get technical) taste of victory – the rich, meaty, tenderness of success – it was all worth it.

I came (armed with nothing but a big ole’ pot, good intentions and a heck of a lot of prayers). I cooked (Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon.) And I conquered (the H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS out of that stuff.)

Ah yes, Beef Bourguignon – the quintessential Julia recipe. The recipe that introduced Americans to the art of the French cooking. The recipe that inspired a thousand home cooks to take on a challenge and really impress their families. The recipe that, literally, changes lives. Maybe even mine, in a roundabout way.

I won’t go on and on again about my recent epic epiphany regarding the novel Julie & Julia – you can read that here, if you are so inclined.

This recipe, upon first glance at the ingredients, does not seem all that intimidating. There is nothing unusual about any of them. Beef, bacon, veggies, spices, stock, wine. They are readily available and, dare I say it, CHEAP even. Well, except for the wine, of course, you can spend as much or as little as you want there. Personally, I don’t spend much over $8 for a bottle of wine I’m planning on cooking with, but that’s just me. How hard could it be, right – brown meat/veggies, add wine, stock and spices, simmer, braise, stir and serve, right? Piece of cake.

Well. In theory, yes, that’s it. In practice, no, definitely not.

This is the most time consuming meal I’ve made to date. There was little reason or planning to making this meal – I just kind of went for it. I sat down to do my meal planning for the week this past Saturday and it just kind of hit me – Julia’s Beef Bourguignon. For dinner. Tomorrow. YES!

I went about my usual Sunday chores – laundry, errands, baking (is that a chore? Heh.) Then I sat down on the couch with my computer to take a little break. It was then I decided to really take a good look at this recipe I planned to make for dinner. So I’m reading along, smiling and nodding. Got that. Okay. I understand. Yep. Then I get to part where it says to braise the meat in the oven for….3 to 4 hours. 3 to 4 hours?? Yikes! How did I miss that on my first read through? Panic set in as I looked at clock – 2:30 p.m. If I had any hope of getting this meal on the table at a decent time, I needed to get started, um, NOW!

I jumped off the couch like someone lit a rocket under my butt and bolted for the kitchen. I’m slicing bacon and drying meat and chopping veggies. I’m moving along as quick as can be – following Julia’s detailed instructions. I needed to get the pot ready for its three hour siesta in the oven as quickly as possible. In my haste, naturally, by the time I heaved slid my pot into the oven at about 20 to 4, it literally looked like a tornado had gone through my kitchen. Cabinets and drawers were wide open, assorted bowls and spoons and measuring utensils littered the counter tops, discarded veggie skins covered cutting boards, pointy knives jutted out at dangerous angles, and how the heck did I manage to splash beef stock all the way up onto the cabinets above my oven?

Ugh.

Commence deep cleaning of kitchen! I wiped, scrubbed and washed my way through easily an hour of my meal’s cook time. Then it was time to get started on the onions and mushrooms. So off I went to dirty up the very kitchen I just meticulously cleaned. Blarg.

Now, I diverted from Julia’s recipe in two places – 1. The bacon. I’m not really sure where one goes about purchasing chuck bacon with the rind intact, etc. So the store-brand center cut that was on sale this week was just going to have to do, thankyouvermuch. 😉 That said, I skipped the entire first step of the recipe. And 2. The small onions that are added to mix just before serving.

I stood at the grocery store surveying my options. Hm. What to choose? In the end, I picked up a package of small, white boiler onions. The package said “Great for Kabobs!” Which I took to mean “Great for Julia’s Beef Bourguignon!” Heh. Hey, I was desperate. Julia’s recipe calls for browning the onions in a skillet in their skins.

In their skins? Then what? Peel them later? Eat the skins? I consulted the recipe for my answer but it was not to be found. Hm. I decided I just couldn’t see myself eating onion skins and since these little babies really did look like mini-onions complete with the hairy little root at the bottom, I decided I would peel them and cut off the ends. Seemed like the most logical way to go about this. I blanched them for a minute to make peeling easier, cut off the onion-looking parts and then proceeded with the recipe as written.

And then promptly became impatient. It smelled so.freakin.good in the house I just couldn’t wait to eat. I’d set my oven timer at 3 hours and by the time I finished with the onions and mushrooms it had been in there for about 2 hours, 40 minutes. So I peeked. I’m sure Julia would frown on my peeking, but I just couldn’t help myself. The sauce had reduced down to thick, delicious yumminess and the meat was perfectly fork tender. I deemed it done. My pieces of meat were a bit smaller than the two inch chunks called for in the recipe so that’s probably why it cooked a little bit faster.

This meal is the definition of pure, sinful decadence. It is so rich and so delicious. The meatiness of the sauce with the wine in the background was an exceptional flavor combination. Sweet mellow onions and earthy mushrooms put everything in perfect balance.  We love red wine so we thought it was great that the flavor remained prominent. Those that are not lovers of red wine, consider yourself warned! This dish is worthy of any special occasion (or a boring Sunday in September, apparently.) Eric was in HEAVEN – he kept thanking me for making it all night. We loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Will I make it again? Maybe.

Anytime soon? Um, no. 😉

JULIA CHILD’S BEEF BOURGUIGNON (Recipe Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, 1961)

This picture SUCKS, I know and I apologize…but after 5 hours of cooking. Well, you know… yeah…

INGREDIENTS:

  • One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon (I used about six pieces of sliced center cut bacon)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • A crumbled bay leaf
  • 18 to 24 white onions, small (I used about a dozen white boiler onions)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
  • 1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
  • DIRECTIONS:

    Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry. (I skipped this part)

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

    Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.

    In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

    Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

    Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

    Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).

    Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

    Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

    Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind (I omitted rind). Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

    Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

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

    Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

    Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins (I removed the skins). You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

    Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

    Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. (I didn’t have quite as many onions, so I only simmered mine for about 30 minutes) Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

    Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.

    Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

    When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

    Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

    Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. (I skimmed off some fat but I really did not find the sauce to be overly fatty at all.)

    If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

    Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

    Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

    Now take a load off and ENJOY! 🙂

    One Year Ago:

    Chocolate Chip Orange Muffins – So easy and so delicious
    “Grown Up” Mac & Cheese – Cheese, pasta and bacon? Yes, please!
    Pumpkin Spice Kiss Oatmeal Cookies – A great way to use up those pumpkin Hershey kisses!

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    7 Comments

    Filed under beef, veggies

    7 responses to “V is Victory!

    1. I am so incredibly impressed! You are a rock star 🙂 Nicely done!

    2. Erin

      This looks so good! What a great accomplishment!

    3. Congratulations on your victory! It looks fabulous! I’ve been wanting to make this but haven’t had the extra time to spare. Hopefully I too will conquer it soon. Great job!

    4. You go!! I read the directions and immediately was like, there is no way! I am glad that you liked it and one day, maybe I will try it as well.

    5. Laura

      I’m so impressed! Ever since I saw the movie a few weeks ago (LOVED it!) I’ve been craving this dish. Nice work!

    6. Chris

      I disagree – I think that picture turned out famously! It looks absolutely delicious.

    7. Pingback: Project Food Blog: Ready, Set, Blog! « Milk & Honey

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