Tag Archives: recipe

Boeuf Bourguignon, Julia Child and I

12 Mar

Can you be French and have never cooked Boeuf Bourguignon?

Recently I watched again Julie&Julia, that movie that draws a parallel between the lives of a New Yorker cook and Julia Child, the famous American chef and author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie, the young New Yorker, assigns herself the challenge of cooking the 524 recipes featured in the book within one year. One of the decisive recipe that appears in the movie is Boeuf Bourguignon. It is depicted both as complex to make and succulent to eat. It is also often presented as being the essence of French cooking. It is true, Boeuf Bourguignon seems to be in most of the French restaurants here and my cook friends quote it systematically when talking about French cuisine. Thus, I have been thinking about Boeuf Bourguignon for a while and last weekend I gave myself the challenge to cook Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. My first Boeuf Bourguignon… by an American chef.

Getting ready for the Boeuf Bourguignon cooking night

I read that Boeuf Bourguignon is even better if cook in advanced and re heated. Sunday night was the perfect spot: nobody home, plenty of time, relaxed cook. I got everything I needed and followed the advice of the wine salesman: I took a French wine mixing Pinot Noir and Shiraz, good to cook and good to drink (in fact he was quoting Julia Child who said, “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking. “).

I started at 9pm. By 12am, it was almost finished. I was surprised I did not encounter any major issue. In fact, I did not meet any issue at all. I carefully followed the recipe: cook the bacon, cut it into lardons, sauté the meat until brown, repeat with sliced onion and carrot, simmer wine, beef bouillon with the meat, add flour, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and cover for 2 hours. At the end, when the meat is tender, I added sautéed mushrooms and small onions cooked into the bouillon. I did not have the right pan to simmer it slowly in the oven so I did it on the stove on a big saucepan. I kept the heat very low and it was perfect.

So far, it tastes amazingly good. The meat is tender and the sauce is thick and sweet. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a Julia Child’s recipe, if I am influenced by the movie or just because it is Boeuf Bourguignon but so far, I think it is one of the best meal I have ever cooked.

Tasting and verdict of Tummy Boy tomorrow night though…

The ingredients:

• 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep

• Slotted spoon

• 6 ounces bacon

• 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil

• 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes

• 1 sliced carrot

• 1 sliced onion

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. pepper

• 2 Tbsp. flour

• 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti

• 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon

• 1 Tbsp. tomato paste

• 2 cloves mashed garlic

• 1/2 tsp. thyme

• Crumbled bay leaf

• Blanched bacon rind

• 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock

• 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter

• Parsley sprigs

In the kitchen with Julia child, here

La purée de Mamie

13 Jan

Personal memories linked to a special cook or a special meal from the past can be a stereotype or a common topos in food writing (this is what Dianne Jacob suggests in her book Will write for food evoking editors’ exasperation with these stories). But I am convinced that they are worth sharing. So let’s get tummy nostalgic for a moment…

One of my favorite meals is smashed potatoes. It comes from the days of my grandmother (the inspirational grandmother is what constitutes the cliché; but we love our grandmothers and they deserve being remembered one way or another). She used to cook the exact same lunch every Saturday: a juicy beef steak cooked in a big piece of margarine and ground pepper, lettuce salad with shallots vinaigrette and smashed potatoes. She would serve me a piece of steak and then creamy potatoes, digging a hole in the middle and pouring in some of the meat sauce. Usually I would go back to the pan and take more sauce as the purée would disappear from my plate.

Smashed potatoes are easy to cook but the result always varies depending on the ingredients used to flavor them. Even if she was not using any specific recipe, I know from memories of watching her preparing the meal while listening to the 1pm news on TV that she would mash the potatoes with milk, then put a large piece of margarine with salt and ground pepper. I am not sure but I think she would also add some whipped cream. At the end, she topped it with an egg yolk to give it this beige color and link the whole preparation into a very creamy one. I use to complain to my mom that her mashed potatoes were not as good as her own mother’s. My grandmother always answered vaguely about what made it so special. Maybe she did not know herself, but I am still very convinced she had a secret. The smell filling up the small apartment, the consistency and the well known taste of it constitute a vivid memory. I was never able to cook the same mashed potatoes or make that sauce by myself, nor was I able to taste it again anywhere.

Years later, I had the chance to taste mashed sweet potatoes during my first Christmas in an American family. Sweet potatoes are not a common ingredient in France and I must admit I was a little bit skeptical about it. I know the tendency of Americans to sweeten everything, from mustard to chicken.  And the idea of mixing it with marshmallow was a total affront to my grandmother’s meat and margarine sauce. But what I discovered enchanted my palate: creamy, with a slight sense of maple syrup, the mashed sweet potatoes were not only savory but good looking with the marshmallows on top, alike a lemon pie topped with small meringues.

I forgot to ask the cook the recipe so it will stay a mysterious tasty memory, alike my grandmother’s mashed potatoes.