Hi guys! I hope you had an amazing holiday! I sure did.
Russell and I spent the day at home with our pups opening presents and eating and drinking and eating. and drinking.
In the morning we exchanged gifts, called family, ate bagels and pfeffernusse, and snuggled with the dogs. I gave Russell a fancy pants super-powered blender that he’s had his eye on, so of course we had to see what it could do. When the clock struck noon we ran around the corner to see if the liquor store was open, and came home with some tequila & triple sec, along with some lime juice and frozen strawberries. Within minutes we had some delicious and perfectly blended frozen strawberry margaritas! I think they’ll have to be a new Christmas tradition!
After lunch, with a good buzz going, I got started on dinner.
I decided it was high time I tried my hand at Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguinon. This recipe is kind of an all day event so I thought it would be the perfect thing for Christmas. We had the whole day to hang out at home and do nothing, and at the end we’d have a phenomenal meal to top it all off.
You basically start by browning some bacon, then some beef, then some veggies. Then you throw it all in the pot with some herbs, tomato stock, beef stock, and red wine. Almost a whole bottle of wine. Julia’s my kind of woman. Then it goes into the oven for a good long time and gets all happy, while you cook some tiny white onions in beef broth and then brown some mushrooms on the stove top. When the stew comes out of the oven the broth gets strained out and reduced in a saucepan, and everything goes into the pot together.
I used a California Merlot, but you can really use any full-bodied red wine. The originally recipe recommended Chianti because that was so readily available to American home cooks in the 1960s. I went for the Merlot because I figured it would be closer to the flavor of a true Burgundy, but you can use whatever you want. It cooks for so long that the flavor changes completely anyway.
I know that Julia is untouchable and that it’s, like, against the law to make any changes, but if I were to make this again I think I’d either just toss the small white onions in at the same time as the carrots, or skip them all together. They’re kind of fussy, took a while, required my attention when I could have been playing with the dogs, and I didn’t really think they added anything special. I know I’m not allowed to say that, but there it is. The stew was absolutely phenomenal and I think they got kind of lost with everything else and didn’t seem to be worth all the extra effort. But that’s just me.
I’m glad that I followed the recipe exactly the first time, and you totally should too, but if I make this again (I will) I’ll make this one tiny tweak.
I made this using my La Chamba oval roaster. This is not a proper enameled cast iron dutch oven like Julia would have used, but it worked really well for me. If you’re not familiar, La Chamba pots are oven and stove top safe cookware handmade in Columbia from volcanic black clay. It’s made of magic.
When I first got this roaster I was a bit afraid of using it over a flame. I tried my best to use caution and keep the flames low and safe, but it’s hard to brown anything over a low flame. Most braising recipes call for the meats and vegetables to be browned in the pot to build flavor before the liquids added, and my initial fear made for some, well, subtle braises. Anyway, after using this pot a few times I’ve learned that it can handle pretty much anything I can throw at it. High heat, high flame, hours in the oven, you name it. The only cautions I’d offer up are that it won’t take temperature shocks well, so don’t take it from the refrigerator to the stove top, and that you do need to use some kind of cooking oil or liquid when cooking in it.
So, fussy onions or not, this recipe is seriously unbelievable. It took every ounce of strength in us not to eat the whole pot of stew in one sitting. It was a lot of work with all the browning and cooking and straining and reducing and all, but it was well worth it. Seriously amazing. The time in the oven mellows the flavor of the wine and it just comes out tasting super rich and hearty, and not at all like what you started with. I served it over mashed potatoes with a couple big glasses of, you guessed it, red wine.
I’m not really someone who cooks much beef at home, and have never been a huge fan of beef stew. I’ve tried a few different recipes and have never really loved the results. This recipe has changed everything. The meat is crazy tender, turning to mush when it sees the fork coming at it. It’s hearty and rich and wonderful. It’s so amazing that I don’t have words. I can’t even begin to describe how good this is. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.
This will have to be another new Christmas tradition for us.
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 small white onions
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.
In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees. Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.