|From the French Chef herself!|
Yup. This is easy, it has my photos*, it takes a long time, but it is so worth it! My one piece of advice, plan ahead. Measure, cut, pour, find, etc. in advance. When it’s time to add herbs it is so much easier if they are all measured and in a cup together than running around looking for your lost bottle of thyme.
Julia Child wrote the definitive recipe for this- I tried to follow along closely. If you want to see the original- I won’t republish it, but I am sure it is online somewhere, and if not, you really should own this book anyway. Or just go to the library, I know my branch of the New York Public Library carries it, and make a photocopy of the recipe. What follows is my version, following as closely as I could to her original standards, but making minor changes too (sacrilege, I know). I won’t include what I left out/ changed, just compare my version to her original if you are that interested. I will say, my changes are very minor and are due more to my lack of ingredients rather than any sense of taste or personal preference.
Something to note (though not to let intimidate you), if you make boeuf à la Bourguignonne, which Julia describes as “beef stew in red wine, with bacon, onions and mushrooms” is that the “onions and mushrooms” portion is another two recipes. They are “Oignons Glacés À Brun” and “champignons sautés au beurre”. You could make the onions or mushrooms as a side dish for another meal, but you make them specifically to add them to the stew for boeuf à la Bourguignonne. (they are very easy though, so do it, it adds so much!)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, take a deep breath, and embark on this food odyssey.
6 ounces of bacon (I used about 1/3 of a 16oz package- close enough) cut into inch long sticks.
1 Tb vegetable oil
3lbs of stew beef cut into 2 inch cubes (ish, for me) and dried with a paper towel (yes, pain in the ass, but do it while you watch TV like I did, it made it more tolerable)
1 sliced onion
1 sliced carrot
In a cup, mix together 1tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper and 2 Tb flour
In a large pitcher, combine 3 cups red wine (I used cheap chianti, we drank the rest with the meal) with 2 cups of beef broth
In a cup, mix together 2 cloves of roughly minced garlic, ¼ tsp dried thyme and 1 crumbled up bay leaf
|dry ingredients, bacon, carrot/onion and stew meat|
Pour the olive oil into what Julia calls a casserole, what I refer to as a dutch oven, and cook your bacon in it over medium heat(this is the same dish that it will all be cooked in eventually, so you want it deep enough to hold the eventual liquid, see my photo). Once it is crisped, remove the bacon and set aside in a large bowl. I used tongs, a slotted spoon would work, you want to leave the fat in so that you can…
Brown the beef in it! There are no photos of this as it was a very whirlwind and mildly horrifying few minutes. Remember to have your heat at medium, the bacon fat will be almost smoking ( a few minutes by itself) when it is ready. Using tongs, put beef into the dutch oven and brown the sides. The bacon fat will spit and snap and it will make a loud frying sound. Just stay with it, turn the meat over until all sides are browned and then put them in the bowl with the bacon. I did all of my meat in about 4 rounds. There should still be some fat left, use it to brown your carrots and onions (I dumped them in all together).
|Browning the Carrot and Onion|
Once the veggies are browned, turn off the burner and pour the bacon and meat bowl back into the dutch oven on top of the carrot and onion. Now you slowly sprinkle the contents of your dry ingredient cup over the meat, I did a shake, stirred it all up, and repeated about 3 times until there was nothing left to shake in. At this point the dry ingredients should be mixed all over the veggies and meat evenly.
|Combined Beef and Veggies|
|Adding the dry ingredients…|
Now, your oven should have reached 450, and you put the dutch oven in uncovered for 4 minutes. Remove, stir, and put back in for another 4 minutes. Julia says this “browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust”. I believe her. Even if it is not true, it is nice to have 4 minutes to catch your breath after the whirlwind browning and mixing session.
|After browning in the oven for 2 rounds of 4 minutes each|
After the second 4 minute breather, turn the oven down to 325 and put the dutch oven back on the stove. Pour your garlic/bay/thyme cup in on top. Now, pour in your wine-broth until it just covers all of the meat/veggie mixture (retain any left over to use with the pearl onions later). Now bring it to a simmer, uncovered, on the stove. Once it is simmering, put the top on and put it right back in the oven.
|add the garlic, thyme and bay|
|add the wine-broth|
|until it just covers everything|
Now breathe again. The dutch oven will sit, untouched, in the oven for another 2.5 to 3 hours, slowly bubbling away. This is when I had some of that chianti.
Thankfully, Kyle is a savior, and was doing dishes as I used them. (He also ran to the liquor store when I freaked out that we didn’t have 3 full cups of wine like I thought we did. Thankfully, in Manhattan, there is a wine store around the corner no matter where you are, so he came back with 2 bottles of chianti in the same amount of time it took me to brown all the beef). If you don’t have a lifesaver in the house with you, now is a good time to clean your work station and catch up on dishes.
Now let’s begin on the onion and mushroom recipes!
The mushrooms take no more than 15 minutes, so just wait until you are almost ready and then do them quickly. The onions will take about 45 minutes. So, doing math, once the stew is in the oven, it will stay there for 2.5 to 3 hours. That means, 45 minutes before the stew will be done, start your onions, and 15 minutes before the stew and the onions will be done, start your mushrooms. I wrote my times on a sticky note above the stove.
Ingredients for Onions and Mushrooms:
Onions:24 (ish, per usual) pearl onions (were I to make this tomorrow, I would double the amount since I liked them so much)
In a cup, combine 1.5 Tb butter with 1.5 Tb olive oil
½ cup of wine-broth mixture left over in your pitcher (none left, use beef broth or wine by themselves, you must have SOMETHING left over)
Herb bouquet**- 4 parsley sprigs, a small bay leaf and ¼ tsp dried thyme tied up securely in a cheesecloth
Mushrooms:.5 lb mushrooms
In a cup, combine 2 Tb butter and 1 Tb olive oil
I like to do prep work in advance, and then use down time to relax. Accordingly, for the onions, I peeled them and put them in a bowl and then put my cup of butter oil and my herb bouquet next to them. I washed the mushrooms, quartered them all, and put them in a bowl next to their cup of butter oil. Put them on opposite sides of the counter if you think you will mix the cups up! Different amounts of butter oil for each vegetable.
|Nice and Organized!|
At your 5o minute mark, over medium heat in a skillet, pour in your butter oil cup. When the mix is bubbling, pour your bowl of peeled onions in. They will snapple and crack too, though not nearly as much as the meat did. Keep shaking the pan so the onions roll all around and get nice and browned on all sides. Some will be annoying and not roll properly so you may need to prod them with a spoon like I did.
|Browning the Onions|
Once they are browned, about 10 minutes, pour in the wine-broth and cover immediately. The liquid will steam/ roar in the hot butter oil and the lid will contain splatter. Once it calms down after a few seconds, salt and pepper, however much you normally use to season, and put the herb bouquet in amongst the onions. Now cover it up and let it simmer on very low heat. There really is not much liquid so it must be very very low. I accidently put my burner out trying to get it at the absolute lowest setting. This will sit and simmer for the remainder of the time, just give a shake every now and then or move stuff around with your spoon.
|Onions are just about finished (and my herb bouquet is getting all ugly and used up)|
At your 15 minute mark, melt the butter oil mixture over high heat in a skillet. The butter will foam, and then sort of diminish, once that happens, pour in your bowl of mushrooms. This part is fast, just keep tossing/ shaking the pan so the mushrooms are moving a lot (or use a spoon/spatula and move them all over). Once they seem browned on all sides, they are done. This really only takes about 5 minutes.
|Mushrooms in with the butter and oil|
Now, you are near the finish line! The house must smell amazing at this point, and you will want to eat it. But wait! One last step!
Prepare for this whenever you have a free moment: Put your largest colander/ strainer inside a large bowl. Put a small saucepan on reserve, ready to be used.
Remove the bubbley, brown, mouth watering stew from the oven (remember that guy? The one you worked on 3 hours ago?) and ever so carefully pour the entire thing into the colander over the bowl.
|Carefully pour your stew in, you will get a beef broth/ wine steam facial|
Put the dutch oven on the stove, shake the colander to remove as much liquid as possible and then pour the stew sans liquid back into the dutch oven. Pour your newly ready onions and mushrooms on top, there should be barely any liquid left in either skillet.
|Add your delicious pearl onions and mushrooms to the beef sans liquid|
Throw away your brown/ black unrecognizable herb bouquet. Now, pour all the hot juice from the big bowl into the small saucepan and put it on the stove over low heat. Let it simmer and skim fat off the top, it is shiny and bubbly looking, like little cells. I just used a measuring spoon from earlier to do this, no need to dirty another dish. I did this for a few minutes, I was certainly not anal about it and just said good enough after a while.
The sauce is ready when a spoon plunged into it comes back out with a light coating. Then, still simmering, pour it over your waiting beef, bacon, onions, carrot, mushroom dutch oven of sweet succulence. Stir it all up and kick your heels up in the air for you have just created boeuf à la Bourguignonne. And you will melt once you taste it. The richness of the flavor is incomparable. Kyle said, this is what pot roast and beef stew try to do but don’t.
Julia suggested serving it over buttered noodles or rice, we had it over quinoa with a green salad and it was perfect! (Quinoa is a topic for another day).
|Boeuf à la Bourguignonne over fresh quinoa, yum yum!|
Really, typing this whole damned thing up feels like more work than making the stew did. So make it!
*- Kyle acted as my personal Paul Child and helpfully leapt off the couch everytime I shrieked for a photo so that this experience could be visually documented. It was not exactly the lazy Sunday he predicted. But he gallantly did as asked and took them all, with his iPhone, so thanks Kyle!
**-So, I bought cheesecloth especially for this recipe, and have always wanted to make an herb bouquet. That being said, if you are not as strange as me, or don’t want to buy cheesecloth (though I only paid $2 for what seems like many square feet of the stuff) I was thinking one could probably use a tea strainer. Those kind you fill with loose leaf tea and pour the water over if it was very flat.