Sunday, December 27, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon (But not ala Julia, sorry)

Well, here I am again after a sometime hiatus. Following Thanksgiving, I was so exhausted of the kitchen that I was sure I'd never want to see it again (surprisingly, not true). Then, what followed the holiday was what I will call intense, Olympics-style physical conditioning. I worked all night (literally), slept occasionally, forgot to eat, got sick, and basically nursed a case of general-exhaustion-slash-what-day-is-it for four weeks while I learned to take over the night baking shift at work. All by my lonesome. On a deadline.

But there were moments of greatness over the last few weeks, particularly the day when my birthday present from my husband arrived. Yes, about 4 months late. But it was worth it.
Look at that beauty! Sturdy cast iron construction; hard-wearing, non-reactive, bright-scarlet enamel finish; superior heat retention and distribution; fired at 850ยบ in Northern France by craftsmen who have handed the trade down generation by generation--and weighing in at approximately 300 pounds. How can your dinner not come out perfect?
David inSISted that our first meal out of the French Creuset be one of two French things: Chicken-in-a-pot (a favorite around our house) or Boeuf Bourguignon. Daunted by the seventeen steps in Julia Child's surely authentic but somewhat overwhelming (given my aforementioned schedule) recipe, I remembered and article from the NYT Dining section some weeks back, right about the time J&J hit the theaters. The article was about Ginette Mathiot's "I Know How to Cook," touted as France's "Joy of Cooking," and in the words of the author, "an authoritative cookbook for French housewives first published in 1932." Her recipe for boeuf bourguignon, while still thoroughly French, had a mere five steps. FIVE! (You can do this, Care.)
So that's what we did, in the big French pot, and it was DIVINE. The amount we did was enough for 3-4 people, but you're going to want to make this whole thing, because as delicious as it was on the first night, it was RI-diciulous on the second. Make it. Save it. Eat it. Thank me later.

Boeuf Bourguignon
adapted from a mix of Julia and Ginette, takes about 4 hours; serves 3-4

1 Tbsp oil
3 oz shallots (about 2 small, or 1 medium onion)
3 1/2 oz thick-cut bacon (3-4 slices), diced
1 1/2 lbs stew beef, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Scant 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup any type of stock
1 1/4 cup red wine
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 sprigs parsley, tied together)
Black pepper
1/2 lb. pearl onions, peeled and halved (optional)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced (optional)
3 1/2 oz mushrooms, diced
  1. In a large, heavy pot (preferably a bright red 7.5-quart Le Creuset French Oven, but other pots will work too, I guess) heat oil over medium heat, then toss in onions and bacon pieces. Cook until brown. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave fat in pan.
  2. Carefully pat your beef cubes dry all over. Add them to the hot pot and brown on all sides, working in two batches if you need, to avoid over crowding. This will take 8ish minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in flour; stir to coat and cook the flour 2-3 minutes, until browned. Add stock, scraping bottom of the pan at the same time to get all that good crusty stuff off the bottom. Now, toss in bacon, onions, wine, bouquet garni, onions (if using) and season with plenty of pepper.
  4. Simmer gently for 2 hours.
  5. After 2 hours, stir in carrot (if using) and mushrooms, cooking 30 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and serve with hot, crusty bread and (if you wish--it is traditional) boiled potatoes tossed in butter and parsley.
As I mentioned, this keeps BEAUTIFULLY, so just pop any extras into the fridge and reheat as you desire.

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