Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Labour of Love: Boeuf Bourguignon

When DucCat and I got married, one of the gifts that I received from my mother-in-law has become treasured above all others: Julia Child's Mastering the Art of Fine Cooking, Volume 1.

I was still just coming into the realm of cooking at the time, and when she discovered that this book was missing from my arsenal, wasted no time in filling that gap. I'm no Julia Powell, so am still making my way, page-by-page through its enchanting prose. There are only a few recipes that I've gone through, but one in particular has taken hold of DucCat: beef burgundy.

The first time that he made it was on an icy-cold early spring evening. It was a Saturday morning, and I was spending the day at school. DucCat pondered over coffee, and finally decided to make me a lovely surprise.

Five hours later, he had finally finished cooking, and the pot was left to bubble away in the oven. I arrived home to unimaginably wonderful scents beating their way through the front door: red wine, tender beef, herbs, garlic- it was mouth-watering.

Since then, DucCat has honed his bourginon method, and is down to about three-and-a-half hours actual cooking time. The cookbook, at this time of year, is a bare bones guide. In another month, it will sit in the cupboard as he adds pinches of herbs, pats of butter, and glugs of wine into the ever-simmering pot.

We used to serve this on spaetzle, and I believe we once even tried it on mashed potatoes. Our preferred method has shifted towards toasted slices of bread; when we can arrange it, as in this case, it has to be Syd's bread.

It's sliced on the thick side, then toasted golden as it becomes an enviable, toasty cradle for a succulent autumn meal.

What eventually comes out of this prolonged loving process looks much like this:

One can't help but to lean forward and take in that heady, rich aroma.

We initially served this with a Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 1999. This deep, dark wine has a complex depth of flavour, with ripe fruit, soft tannins, and touches of smoky wood and leather. It went extremely well with the bourginon, but I’m looking forward to tasting it again in one year’s time.

As the meal continued, we switched to the Whitehall Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 that our guests had kindly brought. It became obvious that we should have had the wines in the opposite order. While still a very good wine, with soft dark fruits, blackberry, and spices all nicely balanced- it was no match for the Pauillac.

For many of us, Autumn is here, and in some places, Winter is already making it's frosty presence known. Invite over the ones you love, dig in, and drink deep from the well of life!

Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

a 9- 10 inch fireproof casserole 3 inches deep
6-ounce chunk of bacon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp flour
3 cups of a full-bodied, young red wine (we used a Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon)
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
crumbled bay leaf
the blanched bacon rind
18 to 24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock (recipe follows)
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sautéed in butter (recipe follows)
parsley sprigs


Remove rind, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, inch thick and 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

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

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

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 bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

('*) Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For Immediate Serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For Later Serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Brown-Braised Onions

9-10-inch enameled skillet
18-24 peeled white onions about 1-inch in diameter (we usually get the frozen kind!)
1 ½ Tablespoons butter
1 ½ Tablespoons oil
½ cup of brown stock or red wine (we used the brown stock)
salt and pepper to taste
medium herb bouqet: 4 parsley sprigs, ½ bay lear, and ¼ teaspoon thyme tied in cheesecloth

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and saute over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins; you cannot expect to brown uniformly.

Braise as follows:
Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40-50 minutes, until the onions are perfectly tender, but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet.

Sauteed Mushrooms

10-inch enameled skillet
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon oil
½ pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, or quartered if large
optional: 1-2 Tablespoons minced shallots or green onions
salt and pepper

Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4-5 minutes. During their saute, the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2-3 minutes, the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have lightly browned, remove from heat.


Blogger Molly said...

What a meal, s'kat, and what a man! Just beautiful.

October 29, 2005 12:55 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Molly, I am truly blessed. Thanks.

October 30, 2005 9:40 PM  

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