We rented Julie & Julia from Redbox the other night, and I was sorely disappointed. As much as I love Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, I couldn’t love the characters. That’s unfair, I liked Julia Child and I identified with her as a trailing spouse and an expat – but i couldn’t stomach Julie Powell.
I was however, inspired to attempt boeuf bourguignon. The reason cooking beef and other meat dishes is difficult for me is that I have no frame of reference. I’ve never had boeuf bourguignon, so I have no idea how it’s supposed to taste, or what the final product should be. I wanted to use the Julia Child recipe, but I also wanted to cook it in a clay pot. Clay pots (romertopfs) are amazing, if you cook meat (or even veg) you should certainly invest in one. It cooks the food faster, infuses it with more juice and in general enriches the flavor of your food.
Which is how I came to make the boeuf bourguignon as if Julia Child were actually from Africa, and used a clay pot. I also put more veggies in than she called for, one carrot?! Pish posh, put in three.
So, in case you want to make my franken boeuf bourguignon this is how it goes. There are no pictures, because I was too concerned about messing up to take them. I also used cornstarch instead of flour because my mother can’t consume gluten. So, feel free to change that. I made the beef stock the night before, using 3 lbs of soup bones, some carrots, carrot tops, leeks and onions that I roasted before sticking in a slow cooker, I may have added wine to it as well, I can’t remember anymore!
In case you’re getting into making your own stocks you should know this. Chicken stock is waaaaaay easier to make than beef stock. It isn’t that beef stock is complicated per say, it’s just that Chicken is easier. Or rather, that beef is more involved-you need to be involved with your beef stock.
So, let’s pretend your stock is made and skimmed and in the fridge awaiting your return. And yesterday you put in your 3lbs of beef cubes in a bag with red wine. Or do it that morning because your forgot… it’s your choice. You’ve also soaked your clay pot for at least 20 min. Grab a burgundy wine or, a pinot noir, pour yourself a glass.
Clean and chop your carrots into little circles, and strip your pearl onions of their skins. Rub your mushrooms, remove the stalks and chop in half. Put the carrots and onions to the side, put the mushrooms to the side, but separate.
Cut your bacon into tiny strips, Julia says to take the rind off, but this caused me to massacre the bacon, in the future I won’t be derinding. Cut them into lardons, aka sticks. Pat your beef with paper towels and then in small batches powder them with cornstarch (or flour). Plop in 2Tbs of olive oil to your pan and bang the bacon, with some of the powdered beef cubes in as well. Let them brown on all sides and remove to your clay pot. The flour/cornstarch allows the beef to create a little crust.
Once you’ve finished with the beef braising, toss your onions and carrots into the pan you’ve just been using. Add more bacon fat or butter as needed. Season your beef with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste to the clay pot/beef, about a 1/2 tablespoon. Crush 3 cloves of garlic, and add a teaspoon of fresh thyme to the pot. Crumple a bay leaf while you’re at it and pop a clove in.
Once you’ve browned all the onions and carrots add them to the clay pot. Repeat with the mushrooms, but use more butter instead of bacon fat. Pour in 2 cups of the red wine, and 1 cup of the stock. If you have room, add a bit more stock – I did not have room. So now I have lots of extra beef stock, gluten free french onion soup perhaps?
Stick it in the oven at 450 for an hour and half. Julia Child’s recipe calls for several hours, but I’m into instant gratification and an hour and half is about all I could wait for. Nick roasted potatoes, my mother made a fantastic field greens/berry salad and a brilliant pavlova to accompany the meal. Our Sunday Dinners have stepped up to a new level.
What is a recipe you’ve challenged yourself with lately?