Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms)

If you believe Julie and Julia, Boeuf Bourguignon is the pinacle of French deliciousness.  It is comfy and heartwarming and harkens back to a simpler time.  So, of course I had to make it.  Because who doesn't want comfort, a warm heart, and a simpler time?  Apparently me, because this sucker took a total of about 5½ hours over two days and was by no means simple.  I was expecting for my socks to be blown off with that level of dedication going into it.  And it was...good.  But no socks were blown.  I definitely think this recipe could stand some editing, because no little French farmer's wife is going to spend that many hours working on a beef stew.  I will say that the onions are pretty fantastic.  I'll probably make those on their own again another time.  But for the stew itself, I think I'm going with a one-pot approach from now on, instead of trashing my entire kitchen.

Note: My bacon did not have a rind.  It came sliced like all normal modern bacon.  So it did not go swimming, it just got browned.  I did my stew over two days, refrigerating it after its long oven simmer.  The next night I spooned the hardened fat off the top and cooked up the mushrooms and onions.  I also pulled the meat out of the sauce and ran the sauce through the blender since the carrots refused to melt into the ether.  Then everything went in the pot together for a quick warm up session.

Note 2: I learned something interesting when I went to buy some wine for this stew.  Burgundy red wine is more than likely going to be a pinot noir.  And according to the wine expert I spoke with, all the subtlety gets cooked out, so there's no point in buying more than the cheapest wine for this.  So go all California if you want.  I did get a real Burgundy pinot noir just to be authentic (2012 Albert Bichot Vieilles Vignes de Pinot Noir).  It was the cheapest Burgundy they had at $18.  New retirement plan: buy a pinot noir vineyard.

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

1 (6-ounce) chunk of bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef (such as rump, chuck, or round), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups of a full-bodied, young red wine, such as Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux-St. Émilion, or Burgundy, or a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
A crumbled bay leaf
Oignons Glacés à Brun
Champignons Sautés au Beurre

Remove the rind, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, ¼ inch thick and 1½ inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1½ quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a 9- to 10-inch casserole, sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325°F.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2½ to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2½ 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 of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Oignons Glacés à Brun (Brown-braised Onions)
18 to 24 peeled white onions, about 1-inch in diameter
1½ tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons oil
½ cup brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine, or water
Salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, ½ bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves tied in cheesecloth

When the butter and oil are bubbling in a 9- to 10-inch skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet.

Champignons Sautés au Beurre (Sautéed Mushrooms)
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, quartered if large

Place a 10-inch skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

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