Traveling husband was traveling last weekend. So for three days I had lots of time home alone to mess up the kitchen. First I started with the Chocolate Macarons. After I had a mildly successful go with the little meringue cookies, I knew it was time to make Julia’s Beef Bourguignon.
On the front page of the recipe it states – Difficulty: Difficult. As I have now discovered, “difficult” really means time consuming and messy. There are a ton of steps in this wonderful recipe, but feeling Julia was with me all the way, I plowed ahead not caring if dinner got on the table before dark. It was snowing after all and I had no where to go. Don’t you love those days?
Makeup free, hair pulled back in a pony tail, and wearing my favorite grungy t-shirt, I started gathering all the ingredients for this fancy French beef stew. I used a chuck roast, regular bacon, olive oil, carrots, onions, salt, pepper, corn starch, a whole bottle of red wine, beef stock, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, 20 small onions, butter and one pound of mushrooms.
I didn’t worry about trying to buy chunk bacon as recommended in the recipe. I used the last little bit of thick sliced left over from a recent recipe. Cut the bacon into 1/4 inch thick lardons. Simmer the lardons in water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry.
Trim the fat from the stewing meat or roast. Cut into 2-inch cubes.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large Dutch-oven and saute the lardons until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a side dish.
Julia always said meat won’t brown if it’s wet. Dry each piece with a paper towel and brown in the lardon fat. Julia also said not to crowd the meat. Brown a few pieces at a time.
Remove the beef to the dish with the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced carrots and onion. Remove the excess fat and return the beef and bacon to the pan with the vegetables. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle the meat with 2 tablespoons corn starch. Toss to coat. Set the casserole in the middle of a preheated 450 degree oven for 4 minutes. Remove the casserole and toss the meat again. Return the meat to the oven for another 4 minutes. Remove the casserole to the stove top and turn the oven down to 325 degrees.
Now pour the entire bottle of red wine on the meat and vegetables. Add enough beef stock to just cover the meat. I used approximately 32 ounces. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring the mixture to a simmer on top of the stove.
Cover the casserole and set in the lower third of the oven. Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to 300 or 275 degrees and cook slowly for 3 to 4 hours. You want the meat to cook slowly so check the heat to regulate. Simmer, don’t boil.
While the meat is in the oven, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil until bubbling. Add the whole onions and saute over moderate heat for about 10 minutes rolling them so they will brown evenly. Add 1/2 cup of the beef stock, salt and pepper and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are tender but still hold their shape, and the beef broth has evaporated.
Wipe out the skillet and add remaining oil and butter. Heat on medium high and add the sliced mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. When they begin to brown, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, carefully scoop out the meat and vegetables to a bowl and strain the broth over a large saucepan. Return the meat and vegetables to the casserole and distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.
Skim the fat off the sauce in the saucepan. Simmer for several minutes removing any excess fat as it rises. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly. Thicken if needed with a mixture of cornstarch and cold water. Whisk until smooth. Check the seasonings and pour over the meat and vegetables.
Cover and simmer a few more minutes basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
Serve in the casserole with potatoes, rice or noodles. Garnish with parsley.
The meat is extremely tender and the flavor of the rich broth is excellent. This is an all day affair so I’ll be looking for shortcuts using these same ingredients and my crock pot!
The ‘gravy’ is more like a sauce or glaze. Very rich and tasty.
It’s probably not as pretty as Julia Child’s version but I loved it and even saved some for my traveling husband. He also thought it was “very good stew.” So aside from the fancy name, it’s a great basic recipe for the best beef stew I’ve ever had.
Instead of messing up these lengthy directions, below is a link to the recipe I used. I started with over 80 photographs of this extravaganza, but thought I’d lose you before you got to the end! Edit, edit, and edit some more! I’m also thinking those wonderful whole onions could be used for a soup base. They turned out so sweet.
There is a neat 7 minute video with this recipe staring the real Julie of the movie “Julie & Julia.” So how do you think Tricia & Julia sounds? Yeah not quite the same ring to it. Anyway – I enjoyed my day in the kitchen with Julia. I hope you enjoy a day like that soon too!
Thanks so much for stopping by!