I am aware that I appear to have jumped on the Julia Child bandwagon here, but yesterday on a spur of the moment decision, I decided to cook boeuf bourguignon following her recipe.
It was a 4-5 hour endeavor. Granted, 2 1/2 hours of that time was spent keeping an eye on a simmering casserole in the oven, and about 1 hour of that time was spent crouched over, reading and re-reading the recipe as though I were deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls. But still. It was a long project. I probably should have begun it earlier than 5pm, but in my initial shopping trip, I forgot to buy bacon, and I knew that turkey bacon would be an insult to this recipe, so I had to venture back out to the supermarket at the last minute.
The last time I attempted boeuf bourguignon, it was with a dear friend of mine, at the tender age of 12. We had decided that we would prepare it for her grandmother. I don’t remember much from that escapade, although my friend has since reminded me that we skipped about 1/3 of the steps in Julia’s recipe. Now that I’ve done it again, on my own, I can see a bit more of the whole picture, rather than the daunting step-by-step process. Sort of like climbing Mt. Everest– once you’ve done it, you have an overview of the process in its entirety, rather than the dull, plodding one-foot-in-front-of-the-other bits and pieces that you saw on the way up and down. Not that making boeuf bourguignon is like climbing Everest, but it could be.
I can also see the steps that I might gloss over, the next time I attempt it. Boiling the bacon before frying it, for one thing, seems unnecessary (although it made the house smell cheerfully, and oddly, like boiled bacon). Next time I might add some chopped celery, and coat the beef with a little more flour before adding the wine, to further thicken the sauce. (I enjoyed learning that “3 cups of wine” is an oblique way of saying, “1 bottle of wine”.)
Overall, though, I enjoyed the experience. It was fun to undertake a large cooking endeavor on a cold, dreary winter day. And the end result was boeuf-licious.
January 4, 2010 at 10:26 pm
I was actually reading her recipe for cassoulet yesterday, and she wanted me to boil the salt pork – I’d never heard of this until now. Crazy! There must be a reason, but I don’t quite get it.
January 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm
I made that very same recipe with my future mother-in-law, for Christmas dinner! And learned lots of things I would do differently:
-have some mushrooms that I cooked way down, for flavor purposes, and put into the beef for the oven simmering, in addition to the ones you brown only ever so slightly for substance purposes
-use the same goddamn pan for all that separate nonsense with the mushrooms and onions
-use more wine and less stock. Also more herbs.
-add carrots and a chunk of potato for extra thickening
-use pancetta instead of bacon if I use any pork product at all
I was, however, really excited to learn, after all these years, how to brown beef properly (thanks more to the tv show than to the written recipe)—I’d always thought you had to keep it moving!
@ Charley: I know you boil the bacon to get rid of the smokey taste (or so she claims on that particular episode of The French Chef—yay Netflix for adding it to their collection); maybe you boil the salt pork to get rid of the salt??
January 8, 2010 at 2:26 am
Wow, does it really ask for three cups of wine?
I got “The French Chef” for Christmas with that episode, I’ve been meaning to try my hand at Boeuf Bourguignon for a while, so I’m hoping seeing her make Julia make it will inspire me.