Make It: Fall-ing Into Julia’s Boeuf Bourguinon

San Francisco is celebrating what the is normal October with shorter, warm days and cold, brisk nights. On nights like these, nothing warms my bones more than old country, rustic French beef stew, as dictated by the Queen of the Kitchen herself, Ms. Julia Child herself.

Some basics before you attempt this classic recipe, re-envisioned for the modern chef:

Julia, the Master

Julia, the Master

  • You absolutely need a nice, heavy dutch oven/casserole type of pot to do this type of slow roasting cooking in. Using cheaper pots won’t conduct heat the same way and the long period of 3-5 hours in the oven could potentially ruin your cookware. Check out the major brands like Le Creuset (because the French do it best when it comes to slow cooking, let’s be honest.)
  • Your heavy dutch oven will be getting very, very hot during this process. Make sure you have some heavy duty oven mitts so you don’t break it when you drop it from sheer shock from taking it out of the oven.
  • Never cooked in a dutch oven before? You might need to look into seasoning it beforehand, especially if it is just straight up cast iron with no enamel coating.

Ingredients:

  • One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon (or half a pack of regular thick cut, grocery store bacon. I prefer pre-smoked in this application, it added additional depth of flavor.)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra, to add if your veggies and meat dry out too much.)
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 large carrot, sliced (or I used four small seasonal rainbow carrots here.)
  • 1 white onion, diced (an important part of the mirepoix triumvirate.)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (adds flavor and soaks up some of that broth.)
  • Salt and pepper (I prefer kosher sea salt, it tastes better than iodized here.)
  • 2 tablespoons flour (this is an estimation.)
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy) ((I used the whole bottle of Cabernet because why not? It for sure did not hurt anything!))
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (about one box)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (again, I used the whole mini can, just to save waste.)
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic (I added about two heads of garlic here. This is really up to personal preference. You need a lot of garlic to stand up to the wine.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • A crumbled bay leaf
  • 18 to 24 white onions, small (about one bag that you can get in the veggie section)
  • 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 (Don’t miss this part! Buttery, stock mushrooms are the best.)

Let’s get cooking:BoeufBourguignon_5

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté bacon lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in your dutch oven over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish that has a paper towel draped draped over it with a slotted spoon; it’ll soak up some extra grease.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. (One of Julia’s most famous tips. Check out her explanation of it here at 3:15.)

Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Take it off the head, and put it off to the side and add it to the lardons.BoeufBourguignon_10

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then 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 covers the meat with a light crust).

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees. (This is where your oven mitt comes in handy!)

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.BoeufBourguignon_15

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. (Don’t crowd the mushrooms! Use a pan that has a big enough surface area that can brown without overlapping.)

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.BoeufBourguignon_26

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.

BoeufBourguignon_27Skim 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. (I served it next to these super convenient garlic and herb baby potatoes with lots of those yummy mushrooms and onions. Some wheat beer goes great to offset the heavy meat here, too!)BoeufBourguignon_29

BON APPÉTIT!

Lisa

 

Make It: Summer Wheel Salad (Rotelle with Onions, Cucumbers, and Herbs)

hJSbR4HItSypishoI3VfHckLO6ebOHx5 A huge part of being a creative cook isn’t necessarily coming up with your recipes out of thin air but taking one that you’ve found and making it your own with tweaks, new tastes, and additions.

I normally don’t invest in cooking and recipe magazines just because most of anything that you want to make can be found on the internet. Why waste the money on a magazine you’ll throw away when you could save that money for some high quality ingredients? Duh.

However, Martha, being the vixen that she is, seduced me into buying her June 2013 issue last week due to the promises of summer recipes and deserts; she didn’t disappoint. The issue has a bunch of easily punched out recipe-book-sized cards with fun, fresh pasta salad recipes on it for a new kick to some old favorites.

Summer Wheel Salad (Rotelle with Onions, Cucumbers, and Herbs)

  • 3 pounds Vidalia or other sweet onions, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper (I used Maui, but sweet red shallots can work too.)
  • 1 pound rotelle (wagon-wheel pasta)
  • 1/2 English cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers, unpeeled, very thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cups packed fresh herbs, such as mint, tarragon, basil, and parsley, leaves torn into pieces if large (I skipped the tarragon, and doubled the mint. It plays nicely with the onions.)
  • 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar (I used Citrus Champagne Vinegar, it adds a nice twist.)

Note: When broiling your onions, mine finished in about half the time Martha suggested. Check them often to make sure they caramelize but don’t burn. You can check out her recipe here.

Preheat oven to broil, with rack about 8 inches below heating element. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil, and arrange onions on it in a single layer. Brush onions with 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Broil onions until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Flip onions and broil until golden brown on other side, 5 to 7 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Transfer pasta to bowl with onions. Let cool 15 minutes. Gently stir in cucumber, herbs, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and vinegar and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This tasty salad will last for up to a week, great for taking to work or a picnic. I served mine up with some lightly sautéed garlic butter shrimp for a light summery dinner.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

Make It: Haricot Verte with Le Herb Butter

If you haven’t already googled it, you might be wondering: what the heck is Haricot Verte? Answer: Skinny delicious French Green Beans!
As far as the bean hierarchy goes, green beans get a bad wrap. Many of us, me included, grew up eating the mashed up, tasteless already cooked canned version as a bland side to the casual dinner of meat and potatoes. This doesn’t exactly inspire veggie loyalty.
However, now that I’m older and have developed actual tastebuds, I am finding new and fresh ways to prepare these babies up that won’t make you run of the hills. In fact, in this case, you might even want seconds. Or thirds.
Le Herb Compound Butter:
  • 1 Stick of Butter, softened to room temperature
  • Fresh Chives
  • Fresh Rosemary
  • Fresh Sage
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic salt
Note: You can mix in pretty much any fresh herbs you have around, such as Oregano or Basil. It can only enhance the compound butter. Also, the longer that you let the compound butter sit and chill in the fridge, the more powerful and tasty it will become.
Leave the butter out for at least an hour at room temperature in a small bowl to get it soft and pliable. Finely chop the herbs, sprinkle garlic salt, regular salt and pepper, and mix in with the softened butter. Once combined, clump the butter on a small sheet of plastic wrap and mold into a log, fully covering with the plastic, securing the ends tightly. Let the butter chill and set in the fridge for at least an hour before using. (Nothing could be simpler, or more packed with flavor.)
Open Grill Roasted Haricot Vertes:
  • 1 lb Haricot Vertes, cleaned and prepped
  • 1 stick of Herb Compound Butter
  • 1 small red shallot, roughly chopped
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • Tin foil, preferably heavy duty
After cleaning and prepping your beans, carefully make a square-like pan out of tin foil. Placing all of you green beans on one side, sprinkle the chopped shallots over the top. Finely chop up the chilled compound butter into slabs and spread of the beans inside the tin foil, so when it melts all of the beans will have a chance to be flavored. Toss the beans roughly together and then fold over the tin foil, making a sealed packet. (Make sure all of the corners are sealed to prevent drips.)
Place the foil over the open grill on the second rack, so its not over direct heat and you can cook your meat or bigger veggies on the lower level. If you’re not grilling, you can cook inside a regular oven at 400 for about 10 minutes.
Definitely makes a tasty side dish for any protein or just if you’re feeling bean-y.
Thanks and happy eats,
Lisa