Monday, January 11, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon

I am completely intimidated by the butchers at Wohlner's. One of them is a large man who looks like he would be the Irish pounder in the Corleone family. The other is actually pretty small, but they both weald knives, wear aprons smattered with blood and know how to break down a carcass. I am equal parts in awe and afraid to speak to them--though I do think they are quite nice. They know what they are doing, but when it comes to meat and poultry, I am almost completely clueless. But to make beouf bourguignon for a potluck on Friday, I had to face my fears and get 6 pounds of (already-cubed, God bless them) stew meat. I am so ignorant about meat that I didn't realize how much meat 6 pounds is. The small butcher weighed all the stew meat in the display case and then said he usually doesn't keep that much meat up there, so he had to cut some more. I walked away with a pile of meat the size of a cement building block. And that wasn't even the worst of it--I had to actually cook it.

You could call it a resolution to be less lazy in 2010, but I'm trying to follow directions more and not take shortcuts. Julia Child is making that very difficult for me. Mastering the Art of French Cooking talks about the importance of reading the thoroughly recipe before starting and following each step with precision at least for the first run-through. Which meant on Thursday night, I spent the better part of the night hunched over my *beautiful* Dutch oven searing just the outside of 6 pounds of meat in order to seal in all the juices. I boiled the bacon beforehand to rid it of its smokey flavor. I even bought the exact wine Julia recommended for boeuf bourguignon. My efforts did not disappoint. Julia Child et al say that the stew is done when it can be pierced easily with a fork. So after only the minimum two-and-a-half hours in the oven, I crossed my fingers and stabbed a piece of meat. It broke apart instantly. Who knew meat could be that tender or that I, Lainey Renee Seyler, could be the one to bring said tenderness about.

The following night for the potluck, I was so busy having fun and the stew was so good that I didn't have time to snap a picture until it was gone. I have never made something quite like the boeuf bourguignon. Nothing I do has that much meat, firstly, or shows it off so well. And secondly, sheesh, it was just good.

Boeuf Bourguignon:
3 ounces bacon, sliced and chopped into two-inch strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds stewing beef, cubed
1 carrot
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf, crushed
1/4 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

For mushrooms:
1 pound mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil

For onions:
18 pearl onions
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil

To start, bring a quart of water to a boil and boil the bacon for 10 minutes. Pour off water and reserve bacon.

Preheat oven to 450. Using a fire-proof pot, heat the oil to medium on the stovetop. Cook the bacon until it is browned, though not overdone. Remove and set aside. Leaving the fat in the pot, begin browning the outside of the already-cubed stew beef. Set each piece aside once the outsides have been browned, this seals in all the juices. Once finished, saute the diced carrots and sliced onions in the same fat until the onions are translucent, which takes about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables and pour off any excess fat. Throw the bacon, beef, carrots and onions back into the pot. Dust with flour, stirring to coat. Place in preheated oven for 4 minutes, remove, stir and place back into the oven for another 4 minutes. The flour gives a crust to the meat.

Reduce oven temperature to 325. Pour in the wine and beef stock so that the beef is just barely covered/submerged. Season with crushed bay leaf and thyme and a little salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and the crushed garlic. Bring the entire mixture to a soft boil, cover and place in oven for two-and-a-half to three hours. The stew is done when the meat pierces easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, work on the mushrooms and onions. In a saute pan, melt the butter and heat the oil. Saute the mushrooms until they are browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Peal the onions. Julia recommends blanching them in boiling water and the shocking them with cold water. The skin and first layer should peal off easily. However, at this point I threw the whole follow-the-directions-precisely thing out the window and just cut of the ends and pealed them with my fingers (less cleanup). Again, melt the butter and heat the oil to medium. Toss in the onions and roll them around until they are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Pour the onions and the cooking fat into a cassarole or fire-proof pot, place in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes until onions are softened.

(I also cut out a step here, but we won't talk about that) Stir the mushrooms and onions into the beef. You can stop here to refrigerate and serve later or continue on by bringing the stew to a boil and then reducing the heat to a simmer. Season to taste with parsely and salt and pepper. If you're serving this later, also bring to a boil and then reduce heat so that it simmers for 15 to 20 minutes, until the stew is of a uniform and desireable temperature.


Sarah said...

I've wanted to make this ever since I watched Julie and Julia... but first, I need a copy of that book. Also, a dutch oven.

hannah | honey & jam said...

I've wanted to make this too, since seeing julia and julia. yours look delish!

Lainey Seyler said...

there was a moment when i thought i might fall asleep while it was cooking. i learned from julie's mistake at least.