This is a most famous dish. It is the dish that Judith Jones cooked when she was thinking about being the editor and taking on the task of publishing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is also the dish that Julie Powell burnt in “Julie and Julia”.
Julia has this to say about the dish on page 315 of MtAoFc Volume one.
“As is the case with most famous dishes, there are more ways than one to arrive at at good boeuf bourguignon. Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dished concocted by man, and can well be the main course for a buffet dinner. Fortunately you can prepare it completely ahead, even a day in advance, and it only gains in flavor when reheated.”
So I decided yesterday afternoon that I was ready to take this on. First stop Walmart to procure a Casserole. Well the biggest one they had was a 2.5 quart stoneware one by Paula Dean. It was only about $25.00 so I thought why not. I should have just taken it back and saved up for a real one, but that is neither here nor there now.
Then I went to the grocery store to find the rest of the ingredients that I needed. First stop the wine isle. Found a nice Chianti on sale. Then I picked up a white onion, a package of white pearl onions, and a carrot. Then a package of bay leaves. Now to the meat department. The recipe calls for 3 pounds of lean stewing beef cut into 2 in cubes. Well this grocery store I found out doesn’t have a butcher counter. How very disappointing. So I just picked up three 1 pound packages of pre-cut stewing beef. So far so good. Now it’s time to find the 6 ounce chunk of bacon with the rind still on. I looked and looked. Nothing remotely similar to this was to be found at this establishment. So I settled on thick cut bacon. And home I went.
Step one: Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons. Well I had no rind so I cut my bacon into 1-1/2 inch strips. Then I skipped the simmering in water for 10 minutes. I figure ready to cook bacon doesn’t need this step.
Step two: Saute bacon in olive oil in the casserole. So this is where I ran into my first problem with my casserole. It is not fire proof. I could not put it on the stove top. So out came my trusty wok. I think Julia would be turning over in her grave to see me using a wok on French cooking. But I had to improvise.
When I’m sick and loose my appetite I completely forget that I still need to eat.
Then brown them in the oil and bacon fat.
Step four: In the same fat brown the sliced onions and carrots.
Step five: Now, this part says to add the meat to the casserole. Now I should have added the browned vegetables and the meat to the casserole, but I’d already forgotten that I was deviating from the prescribed methods. So I added the Meat to the Casserole and proceeded to the next step.
Step Six: Toss with salt and pepper. Then Toss with Flour and place in oven for four minutes.
Then toss again and place in oven for four minutes.
At this point I still had not realized that I needed to add the vegetables.
Step seven: Stir in wine and enough bouillon so that the meat is barley covered.
Well this is the second problem that I ran into with this casserole. It was simply not big enough. Then there was the problem that I did not own a cork screw.
Luckily I had about 2 cups of cooking wine in the pantry. But I’m still a little sad that I was unable to use the Chianti that I purchased specifically for this dish.
Step eight: Add tomato paste, garlic, herbs add bacon rind. Then bring to a simmer. This was quite difficult. Since I could not bring to a simmer. I took some beef stock made from the bouillon and added these ingredients to it. Then brought that to a boil and added it to the casserole and stirred it all together.
Now came the really hard part. Putting on the lid. I knew I was in trouble from the get go. The second that the lid was on the juices were spilling out. So I placed it in the oven with a cooking sheet on the rack below to catch the overflow. Needless to say My kitchen was smoky for the next couple of hours.
Then the next step was to braise the Pearl onions in an enameled skillet. What is that? So Since I’m not big on onions anyways I skipped this altogether. After that was to saute mushrooms in the same skillet. So out came my trusty wok again and we sauteed mushrooms in that.
At this point I was so hungry that I skipped the removal of the juices to skim off the fat and make it thicker. hubby and I just ate it straight out of the oven over boiled potatoes with the mushrooms on top.
And let me just say, Yum. It was so good. I think I could have died happy after the first bite.
I did not get a picture of it last night. But I did take one this morning of the leftovers. So it might not look as appetizing. But trust me it is worth all the effort.
I’m even thinking of making a smaller version, to fit the casserole, for next weekend. I do need to finish off the bacon that I purchased.