I have to tell you, as a child I LOVED cooking shows. Actually, who am I kidding, I still love cooking shows, I watch them ALL THE TIME! But, it wasn’t as easy to watch them back then (ok, I’m not THAT old, but, in the 80s there was nothing like the Food Network or Cooking Channel). I had to hope to catch Jacques Pepin or Martin Yan (oh how I loved Yan Can Cook) on Saturday afternoons on PBS. And every once in a while, I was fortunate enough to catch her! With her crazy voice and care free approach to cooking, there was just no one like Julia Child. And on a cold, holiday weekend in January, there is just nothing like her Boeuf Bourguignon.
I will admit, when it comes to cooking, I rarely walk away from a challenge. Sometimes I search out the complicated, time consuming recipe, just to tackle it. And, Julia’s boef bourguignon is one of those recipes. Not terribly complicated, but there are a lot of steps, and it does take time, but boy does it taste amazing. The beef is so tender, the sauce so good…it’s just awesome (and I’ve made it for other people, trust me, I’m not the only one that thinks this way)!
The first thing you need to do is saute over medium heat about 6 oz of bacon that’s been cut in 1/4 inch strips (referred to as lardons if you want to impress your friends) in 1 T of olive oil. Use a dutch oven or similar pot that you can eventually put in the oven. Once browned, remove the bacon from the pot.
The next step Julia is adamant about. Make sure you dry your beef on paper towels before browning it in the oil and bacon fat. She says it’s the only way to get that brown color, so I follow her rules. You’ll need 3 lbs of beef cut into 2 inch cubes (although I think my measuring skills are off as many of mine were a lot smaller) and use a medium-high heat. Turn them as they cook so you get a nice brown on all sides. And you’ll probably have to do this in batches, which is fine. Don’t overcrowd the pot. Once browned, remove them from the pot too. They won’t be cooked through, but they’ll be finished off in the oven.
Next, brown 1 sliced carrot and 1 sliced onion in the same pan. Once they get some color, add the beef, bacon, 1 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper back to the pot. Then add 2 T of flour and toss to coat. Put the pot in the oven set at 450 for 4 minutes, then stir and put back in the oven for another 4 minutes. This will brown the flour. Then remove the pot from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325.
Add 3 cups of red wine to the beef and veggies. I used Chianti, but I’m sure any red will do. Then add enough beef stock (and I just used the box here, but if you’re a superstar, by all means, make your own) to just cover the meat. It should be about 2 to 3 cups of stock. Add 1 T of tomato paste, 2 cloves of mashed garlic, 1/2 t thyme, and 1 crumbled bay leaf. Cover and put the whole thing in the lower third of the oven for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. You want the meat to be tender.
While that’s cooking, you want to prepare the other vegetables. For this, Julia directs you to her recipes for brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms. I sauteed 1 small bag of frozen pearl onions that were defrosted with 1 1/2 T of butter, 1 1/2 T olive oil, and 1/2 cup of beef stock over medium-low heat. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 minutes until tender and most of the liquid evaporated. Julia suggests using an herb bouquet for this one, but I skipped it.
When the beef is ready, strain it, and save the sauce of course. Julia suggests washing the casserole, which I did, as you can see from the lovely, clean pot below, but you don’t need to. Add the beef back to the casserole with the onions and mushrooms. Put the sauce in a saucepan and skim off the fat. Then boil for a few minutes to thicken. Then just pour it over the meat and veggies, and you have an amazing meal. Julia suggests serving with potatoes, noodles, or rice, but I just need a loaf of crusty bread to soak up that amazing sauce!
As I said, not terribly difficult, definitely time consuming. But it is just SO GOOD! If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it turns out. It’s warm and comforting and cozy, and please, don’t forget that bread! That sauce is amazing, you need to sop it all up!