an ambitious start to the new year

First of all: Happy New Year! I have managed to totally neglect blogging in the last months of 2011, but now it is 2012 and one of my new year’s resolutions to try and blog at least twice a month! Despite not actually writing blog posts for the last few months, I have taken a ton of pictures when I did find the time to cook or bake.  So, there are some future posts lined up!

I am going to start off the year with an ambitious recipe: Julia Child’s Beef Bourguigon. Over the holiday break I got caught up watching “Julie & Julia” on TV and the hearty beef dish looked so appetizing I decided to use one of my last days off from work to attempt it. The ingredients are simple and fresh, but the recipe is extremely time-consuming.  However, if you are in the mood to cook and have a day to do it, the result is well worth the effort!

I was also really in the mood to make something that requires a lot of slicing and chopping because two of my favorite holiday gifts were a Wusthof Chef’s knife from Mike and a Hammer-Stahl Santoku knife from my dad! Also, the beautiful white porcelain baking dish seen above is only one of the awesome gifts from Mike’s parents — a lot of new, fun kitchen goodies for me to play with!

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon

Ingredients

  • 1 6-oz. piece chunk bacon*
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 lbs. lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (I used beef chuck)
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups red wine, such as Beaujolais or Burgundy
  • 2 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf
  • 18-24 small white onions
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, half a bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs tied in cheesecloth)
  • 1 lb. fresh mushrooms, quartered
*I used regular sliced bacon because that is what I had on hand. I blanched the bacon, but did not have any rind for flavoring.

Method

Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks about a 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2-inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Add beef to Dutch oven, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Set aside with the lardons.

In the same fat, brown the sliced carrot and sliced onion. Pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the Dutch oven and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set Dutch oven uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).

Remove Dutch oven and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in wine and about 2 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind (if you used the chunk bacon). Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Cover Dutch oven and set in lower third of oven. Allow liquid to simmer very slowly for 2 1/2-3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms:

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil until bubbling in a skillet.

Add small white onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

When the meat is tender, use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef, lardons, carrots and onions to a separate dish. Pour the remaining contents of the Dutch oven into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the Dutch oven and return the beef, lardons, and vegetables to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, 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 stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables.

To serve immediately:  Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

To serve later: Allow the contents of the Dutch oven to come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, allow Dutch oven to sit at room temperature for a half hour.  Skim fat off of the top of the sauce.  Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

Recipe adapted from: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

How I eat it: With a hot, crusty whole wheat bread