If you’ve been to the movies lately, it’s likely you’ve seen Julie and Julia on the marquee. This true story contrasts the life of TV chef and cookbook author Julia Child with a modern-day fan, Julie, who blogs about cooking all 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s a movie that makes you feel two things: uplifted and absolutely starving.
Some of the French dishes that star in the movie aren’t so appealing, like the ones baked in heavy pastry dough. Others are downright mouth-watering. Whenever the actors on screen sit down to eat you’ll wish you were at the table with them. French classics like juicy roasted chicken, fish sautéed liberally in butter and creamy hollandaise sauce with artichokes all make an appearance. One of the most memorable dishes is beef cooked for hours in red wine and stock until it’s so tender it will melt in your mouth.
This French dish, Boeuf Bourguignon, (or Beef Burgundy) is essentially a beef stew. But during the hours it slowly cooks in the oven something magical happens. The flavor of the broth intensifies and thickens into a velvety sauce. The beef becomes tender beyond belief. This sort of pleasure doesn’t come easily – you’ve got to give a little bit of yourself to achieve it. Mostly in the form of time. The recipe is not complicated, but from start to finish takes close to four hours. For at least two of those hours the Boeuf Bourguignon is tucked in the oven, filling your home with its amazing aroma. This dish keeps well, so think about making it on a Sunday and saving it for lunch during the week. You can also make Boeuf Bourguignon the night before a dinner party and re-warm it before serving.
This recipe is not exactly Julie Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon; believe it or not it’s simplified a little bit. Its essence, though, is the same – a mix of French decadence and good ol’ home cooking.
- 1/4 pound bacon
- 4 tablespoons butter (or lard)
- 2 1/2 – 3 pounds of beef cut into 2-inch cubes. Rump roast, chuck roast, sirloin tip, and top or bottom round are all options.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons almond flour
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups full-bodied red wine such Cotes du Rhone or Chianti
- 2 1/2 cups beef stock
- 1 pound white or brown crimini mushrooms
Preheat oven to 425.
Cut the bacon into short strips. In a deep saucepan, saute the bacon in 1 tablespoon of butter until bacon is cooked but not crispy.
Pat beef dry with a paper towel and add it to the bacon in 3-4 batches. Brown each batch of meat then remove from pan.
Set bacon and meat aside in the casserole baking dish you will use in the oven. Sprinkle salt, pepper and almond flour evenly over the meat. Bake meat in the oven without a cover for 10 minutes so the flour is absorbed into the meat and hopefully creates a slight crust on the outside. Remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 325.
In the saucepan on the stove, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the remaining fat from the bacon and meat and sauté the carrots and onion until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, parsley and bay leaf. Stir in the wine and beef broth and bring to a gentle boil. Let simmer for 3-5 minutes, then pour over the meat in the casserole pan. Cover the dish and cook in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours. The liquid should be gently bubbling the whole time. You’ll know it’s done when the meat is so tender that it easily pulls apart with a fork.
While the meat is cooking, slice the mushrooms and sauté in the remaining tablespoons of butter.
Here is a tip directly from Julie Child: Don’t crowd the mushrooms. If you cook too many at once the pan will fill with liquid and they won’t brown. Saute them in 3-4 batches, adding butter as needed. Set the mushrooms aside.
When the meat is done, remove the casserole pan from the oven.
Put a bowl under a colander and pour the meat and liquid into the colander so the liquid drains out. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Pour over meat and mushrooms. Garnish with parsley and serve.
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I made this for dinner tonight. Oh, so good! Julia would have been proud!