Recipe Files: Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

Here it is.  One of the most epic recipes of all time.  … Wait. That’s far too dramatic sounding. Let’s start over. 

I’ve had a love affair with Julia Child for a while.  Really, how can anyone not love the pre-cursor to Paula Deen, the person revolutionized American cooking by saying– hey, don’t eat that prepackaged crap! eat good, wholesome, prepared from scratch (with butter!) meals!  This was a woman who adored food and as a consequence learned to love cooking.  I get that.  In truth, I am in the same boat.  When you love food, cooking becomes a byproduct.  

So bearing in mind how much I love and respect Mrs. Child, the husband was all too happy to take me to see Julie and Julia when it came out last year.  (Thus beginning his love affair with a woman who chooses to eat steak over salad!) The movie was fun and we enjoyed it, but most of all, I walked away with an enormous desire to recreate Julia’s famous Boeuf Bourguignon.  For Christmas last year, I finally received her original tour de force– Master the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1.  BTW- if you do not have this cookbook, you need to get it. Now.  I insist.  Even if you are a casual cook who doesn’t want to slave over the stove every night for several hours.  Her wisdom and insight into food, nevermind all the great information on cooking techniques and combinations of flavors, is something every American living our *convenience is awesome and better than anything else* lifestyle needs to experience.  

I read that cookbook cover to cover in January.  And loved every minute.  But I will admit that just reading Julia’s recipe for the BB was daunting.  It’s a fairly formidable recipe.  As I knew that it would require some time and planning, I put off placing this dish on any of my weekly menus for quite some time, instead choosing to focus on other fabulous dishes from the book, like soups, quiches, and braised vegetables.  Eventually, however, I felt ready to tackle the BEAST.  And I am so glad I did. 

Now, I will preface this (I know a preface here? I can hear you, dear reader, saying, but I”m already 4 paragraphs in… but that is not the point, my friend.  I digress…) by saying that this recipe is not something that you will be making for Tuesday night dinner between the softball game and homework time for the kiddos.  It’s most certainly a special occasion meal meant to made with patience and love and shared with good friends along with a fine bottle of Bordeaux.  This meal took me 5 hours to prepare.  Yes, you read that right.  5 hours.  Now, I admit that often I take longer to prepare meals than the suggested time they put at the tops of recipes. (BTW, who creates these suggested times anyway? Are they accurate for you? I am convinced that these times were created by people who cook like cooking shows and already have all of the necessary ingredients prepared and measured and laid out in perfect bowls, lining the counter top.  But again, I digress…)  That said, I was not in front of the stove and/or oven that entire time.  But from the time opened to the cookbook to the time I put food on the dishes, it was quite the marathon.  

The meal is essentially a kicked up beef stew, if you’re not aware.  It can stand on its own as a dish, as in no side dishes are necessary.  But you’ll want to serve it over something, like rice or pasta.  I really think pasta is the best bet and intend to try it with egg noodles the next time I make it.   

And yes, dear reader, I do plan to make this again.  Some cold snowy night this winter would be great.  Because even with all work that went into it, the experience of eating it was P.H.E.N.O.M.E.N.A.L.   When you remove the lid after removing the pot from the oven, the overwhelming aroma of wine, onions, and bacon intoxicates you.  And the taste!  Now, I can’t lie.  On my very first bite, I thought– oh no, this takes just like plain old beef stew from the crock pot.  But then, I savored a little.  And really started to notice the complexity and layering of all the flavors.  Why when you get a bit with one of the onions wrapped with a little bacon and oozing with the sauce— pure heaven!  And another with the beef, a slice of carrot, and a spackling of herbs… it awakens senses to taste you never knew you had. 

So with that said… and without further ado… here is Julia’s recipe: 

boeuf bourguignon

voila! le boeuf bourguignon

To begin you will need: 

  • 6 oz. bacon, chopped and simmered for 10 minutes in water
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3 lbs. stewing beef
  • 1 carrot, halved and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 2 T. flour
  • 3 c. full-bodied, dry red wine (I used a cabernet)
  • 2 to 3 c. beef stock
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1/2 t. thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, chopped

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  After the bacon has been simmered in water, drained, and dried, heat in the oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes, in a large saute pan.  Remove the bacon to a plate, reserving as much liquid as possible.  Use paper towels to pat the pieces of beef dry.  Saute the beef, several pieces at a time,  in the bacon fat until browned.  Place browned beef with bacon.  

Once all of the beef has been browned, add the carrot and onion to the saute pan and brown.  Drain the vegetables, then place the veggies, the beef, and the bacon into a large dutch oven or casserole dish.  Mix in the salt and pepper.  Add the flour and toss gently to coat the meat.  Place in oven for 5 minutes.  Stir the ingredients together before returning them to the oven again for another 5 minutes.  Then remove the dish from the oven and decrease the temperature to 325 degrees. 

Add the wine to the dish.  Then stir in enough beef stock to just cover the meat and veggies.  Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs.  Simmer on the stovetop over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Cover the dish and place it into the over to bake for 3 hours.  

While the meat is cooking, you can prepare the onions and mushrooms as follows. 

For the onions, you will need: 

  • around 20 small white onions, peeled
  • 1 and 1/2 T. butter
  • 1 and 1/2 T. oil
  • 1/2 c. dry, red wine (or beef stock)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 t. parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 bay leaf, chopped
  • 1/4  tsp thyme, chopped

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. (*Note: I have a double oven, which helps in this recipe. If you don’t then simply adjust your baking time for 325 by reducing the cooking length.) Start by melting the butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then place the onions, along with oil and butter, into a medium casserole dish so that they lay in one layer.   Add in the wine, salt, pepper, and herbs.  Bake for 45 minutes, until tender and browned.  Place aside until needed.  

For the mushrooms, you will need: 

  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by heating a large skillet over high heat.  Add the butter and oil.  Once the butter has melted and foamed, add in the mushrooms.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After the mushrooms have begun to brown, remove from heat.  Season with salt and pepper, then set aside until needed. 

Once the meat has finished cooking in the oven, remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.  Drain the liquid from the remaining veggies and meat, reserving it in another bowl.  Replace the meat in the original casserole.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Skim fat off of the cooking liquid from the casserole.  Place in a saucepan and heat on the stovetop over medium heat.  Continue to skim fat as you heat the sauce.  heat until sauce reduces to about 2 and 1/2 c., which took me about 20 minutes.  Pour sauce over meat and veggies in the casserole.  Cover and bring to a simmer for 5 more minutes.  Then remove the cover, take a deep breath and serve over the starch of your choice.  And you can finally, ENJOY! 

*makes 6 servings 

*original recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

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