Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oprah, Julia Child and Boeuf Bourguignon

Some days the stars align and everything falls into place.  Scary, that.  So I had just finished reading Julia Child's "My Life In France", a couple of nights ago.  If you remember back to when I made these earth shatteringly good Petits Pain au Chocolat, I had just started the book.  I know. I'm a slow reader .  My only time to really tuck into a book is before I go to sleep, and only then its a few pages and I'm done.  So it's been a couple of months of reading about Julia, and yes, her time in France, and getting her first cookbooks published.  Good read.  Made me like her more.  And made me want to attempt one of her recipes.  Why not start with the infamous Boeuf Bourg?  I mean, it has lots of my favourite things in wine, bacon, mushrooms, red wine, onions, red wine, and did someone say bacon?

Speaking of favourite things, we all know Oprah is signing off forever today.  As my fingers type on this keypad, she's officially saying goodbye.  Hope I set the VCR correctly.  (That's right VCR.  I'm still pretty old school with my electronics!  There is a Walkman AND a Discman somewhere in my house and don't even ask me what a PVR is.  Some days I'm amazed I have a website!)

When I googled "Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon"  Oprah's site was listing number two, so really it was meant to be that I found the recipe there.  She must have had someone make it on her show once upon a time. Those were my favourite Oprah episodes - the ones about food, and fashion, books, and of course celebs.  After a rocky day at school or work, or just life, it was somehow comforting to come home, turn on the TV and have Oprah entertain me for an hour.  I'll genuinely miss that.  What I grabbed from her were two things:  finding a calling.  And being mindful of gratitude.  She always, always said that people have a calling, and it's our obligation to find it.  I truly believe that, and I'm lucky in that I think I'm on the right path to mine.  And gratitude.  I've blabbed about that here a few times, and not too many days go by where I don't consciously thank my lucky stars.  Oprah is off the airwaves, but those two things will linger with me for a long long while. 

So about this beef.  It's a wee bit of an undertaking, but 100% worth it.  I served this on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes, with a side of roasted asparagus, just because I can't get enough of the fresh green gorgeousness into my belly at this time of year!  Give yourself lots of time, then sit back with a juicy red, light some candles and give thanks to Mrs. Child for this recipe.  Boeuf bourguignon reheats very well, because like a good romance, it gets better the longer it lingers.

Boeuf Bourguignon

10 slices bacon, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
3 pounds of lean stewing beef, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp flour
3 cups red wine, full bodied, such as Chianti
2-3 cups beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
crumbled bay leaf
18-24 small white onions, braised in stock
1 pound of quartered, fresh mushrooms, sauteed in butter
parsley, thyme or sage or garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a frying pan, cook the bacon over med heat until crisp.  Remove to side dish with slotted spoon.  Dry the beef on paper towels, as it will not brown if it is damp.  Fry, a few pieces at a time, in the smoking hot bacon fat, until nicely browned on all sides.  Add it to the bacon.  In the same pan as the fat, brown the sliced vegetables.
Add the beef and bacon to an oven proof 9 or 10 inch casserole dish, 3 inches deep.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour.  Set the casserole in the middle position of a preheated oven for 4 minutes.  Toss the meat and return to oven for another 4 minutes.  (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole and turn down the heat to 325 degrees. 
Stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs.  Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, then cover the casserole and set in lower third of oven.  Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2.5-3 hours.  The meat is done when fork pierces it easily. 
While meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms, set aside.  (I left out braising the onions, but go ahead, if you like!  This would be just simmering them in a little stock until they are tender.)
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole through a sieve set over a saucepan.  Put the meat back into the casserole, and scatter the mushrooms and onions over it. 
Skim the fat off the sauce in the saucepan.  Simmer the sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat.  Should be about 2.5 cups of sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly.  If too thin, boil it down rapidly; if too thick, mix in a few tbsp of stock.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Pour sauce over meat and vegetables.  If serving immediately, cover the casserole and simmer for 3 minutes, basting the meat and veg several times.  Serve in its casserole or arrange on a platter.  Scatter the herbs, if using.  Can be served with boiled or mashed potatoes, noodles or rice. 
If serving later, about 15 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serves 6. Adapted from Julia Child.

If I could pick anyone, living or dead, to have dinner with, Oprah and Julia would definitely make the short list.  How about you? Who would you choose?


  1. Looks amazing! Anything with bacon and I'm there

  2. Looks delish! Brave girl, you. When I read Julia's recipe for Beef Bourguignon I was way too intimidated by all those steps. Sounds like it was worth the effort, though.

  3. Thanks Ruth and Shelley! The recipe was lots of steps, but not too bad. It was a cold and rainy Victoria Day Monday, so I had a few hours to kill. Guess I could have otherwise gone to see "Bridesmaids" or something!

  4. YUM! This sounds and looks heavenly!!

    New to your blog; happy I found you!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

  5. Thanks Mary! I'm happy you found me too!

    1. I watched Julia & Julia, immediately went out and bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and dove headlong into Boeuf Bourguignon. I only had venison available (talk about your first world problem...!) so we had Venison Bourguignon instead and as well as being truly delicious it was a real insight into the difference between cooking (for necessity, to feed faces on a budget, etc) and Cooking (with love, joy and experience). Unfortunately, since embarking on my discovery of Cooking (I also bought Marcella Hazan's 'The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking') I find myself unable to do any of the necessity-face-feeding style cooking at all. Anyway, I'm so glad I found your blog as your style and influences are so close to my own :)


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