Happy 100th Birthday Julia Child!
Yesterday, Aug. 15, would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. In order to properly celebrate this milestone, I decided to cook one of Child’s signature recipes, Boeuf Bourguignon, for dinner. In her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (co-authored by Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck) Child says the French beef stew “is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” I couldn’t agree more.
I have prepared Boeuf Bourguignon on several special occasions always to rave reviews. This time, I decided I would limit the amount of butter and oil, use fresh, local ingredients (except for the wine) and try to make a more healthy (read: lower fat) version of the bourguignon. The result was heavenly.
In order to adequately prepare for the meal, I watched an episode of “The French Chef”—the television show that made Child famous in the 1950s—in which she prepared the stew. It was somewhat different than the recipe in the book (most likely to fit within the 30-minute format). The recipe in the book calls for bacon “lardons” (small sticks of bacon) in which one boils, then fries the bacon and adds it to the stew. The video version omitted this step, and I did too. I admit the bacon adds another dimension to the stew, but it was not missed.
I sautéed the grass-fed beef in a pan without the oil suggested by Child. Following her direction, I thoroughly dried the meat, browned it and placed it in the casserole. Next, I sautéed an onion and carrot from our CSA, put them in the casserole with the beef and deglazed the pan using a lightly, flavorful burgundy wine. I placed the casserole in the oven where it simmered at 325 degrees, slowly for 3 hours.
While the beef was simmering, I prepared the brown-braised onions (oignons glacés à brun) and the sautéed mushrooms. The video was very helpful in showing how to properly peel the onions (place them in boiling water for 20 seconds). In the past, this step took the longest time, because it was next to impossible to peel the small white onions.
The video also helped in not only describing the process of sautéing mushrooms, but the reason why one adds a bit of oil to the butter. The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil. I reduced this amount to 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. The result was delicious. The hint of butter enhanced the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms.
After the beef simmered for 3 hours, I removed the casserole from the oven, drained the sauce and used a ‘paste’ of butter and flour to thicken the wine sauce. This step was used in the video. The book offers a different method that takes a bit longer. I then added the braised onions and sautéed mushrooms and brought the stew to a boil on top of the stove. I served the dish with a side of potatoes, green wedge salad, French bread and, of course, some fine red wines.
We took our cue from the call for Burgundy wines—largely made from the Pinot Noir grape—and tapped into a selection of three Pinot Noirs from California’s Robert Talbott Vineyards. The 2010 Kali Hart Pinot Noir had bright characteristics with crisp red fruit flavors, setting the stage for the wines to come. The 2010 Logan Pinot Noir built on the Kali Hart, offering a fuller palate and richer flavors, including subtle essences of vanilla and cinnamon. The 2010 Pinot Noir from Sleepy Hollow Vineyard realized winemaker Dan Karlsen’s capabilities at their highest level delivering a mature, full-fruited approach with excellent mouthfeel and profound notes of cherry and plum backed by a lively acidity which made it a perfect match to the meal.
And the food? It was simply delicious, and used only about half of the butter in the original recipe. Happy Birthday, Julia, and bon appetite!