Want to talk about comfort food?
Then let’s talk about Julia Child‘s Boeuf Bourguignon. I mean I feel I am doing a bit of injustice if I put it in the category of comfort food. But that is the phrase that came to my mind when I ate the first spoonful of this glorious French stew. This dish can very well be a part of a celebratory meal, a weeknight wholesome dinner, a weekend potluck/party show stopper, a cure for a North American harsh cold winter evenings, a bowl of warmth and flavor you crave for when sick or a cure for any kind of hangover in my dictionary!
Oh in case you did not know, this is my First dish in my brand new Le Creuset Flame-colored Signature Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven! Being my own secret Santa, I bought it for Christmas this year. Could I have given it more justice by cooking anything else in my dream pot for the first time?
Okay, I am not here to dissect the recipe. No one on this earth possibly can. Today, I am just sharing my experiences while making and eating this bowl of love, from scratch. I did dish out Julia Child’s recipe along with this post to encourage you guys to try it. I have just copied-pasted Julia’s recipe without any alteration whatsoever because I have followed that recipe to my utmost ability and I am blown away by the end result. Since the recipe is for 6 people, I have cut the quantity of the ingredients in half as I was cooking for 2 adults and 1 child. That is the ONLY alteration I have done.
Well, to begin with, this dish, is nothing but a Labor of Love. It takes around 5 hours to make it, irrespective of the quantity you are cooking. Hence, I suggest that you make a big batch of the French stew even if you are a 2.5-3 person family like me. You can savor it and eat it the next day as well. Julia has also provided the guidance of heating it if you want to eat it the next day. I have included those guidance steps as well in ‘Notes’ section at the end of the recipe. I did not make the whole batch since we are leaving for a trip today and I cannot afford to have leftovers in my fridge.
The whole 5 hours that I spent in the kitchen making this stew from scratch felt like a 5 hour long French cooking class to me. I have never had a more learning experience from any recipe ever before. Every step in this recipe(or all Julia’s recipes for that matter) has been penned so meticulously along with a detailed description of what should the outcome be at every step, makes you realize how Julia is a class by herself. Reading through the steps and trying to follow them to the utmost perfection, I felt as if I was attending a Boeuf Bourguignon cooking class by Julia. Probably, in my previous life I have attended one of her ‘Les Trois Gourmandes’ classes taught by her, who knows?
My key takeaways from this 5 hour French stew class are:
– I have learnt to brown meat and mushrooms in the correct way. Prior to this, I was incorrectly browning them the whole time.
– Mostly I have a lot of patience when it comes to cooking. No idea where it comes from as otherwise I am a fairly impatient human. But this recipe took my level of patience and love for cooking up by a few notches.
– I have learnt how the use of most basic herbs can create such magical flavors. Yes, I did have a fair idea about it as we Indians use a ton of bay leaves, cilantro etc. for flavoring many of our dishes. But the aroma and flavor of adding just thyme to an olive oil base or the layers of flavor that can be created by adding a simple bouquet garni of thyme, parsley and bay leaves to a butter-olive oil to something as simple as onions was absolutely a brand new learning experience for me.
– Even though Julia Child has used onions, mushrooms and carrots in her recipe, I think the next time I make it (which will surely be very soon), I will add some baby potatoes to it as well.
– Julia’s end product had lesser sauce than mine. Although she has mentioned that the amount of sauce in the end can totally be how the cook wants it. I chose to keep mine a bit runny and saucy compared to hers as I ate this as the main course with just slices of toasted baguette. If you have mashed potatoes, rice or any of the other heavier sides suggested by her, you can choose to simmer down the sauce a bit more.
Well, go ahead, make it and treat yourself and your families this Holiday with this glorious French stew!
Happy Holidays everyone!
Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 4 hours
- Total Time: 5 hours
- Yield: 6
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: French
For the stew
6 ounces bacon, solid chunk
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 lbs. lean stewing beef, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and sliced (I have used a red onion)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full bodied red wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy or Chianti
2 -3 cups beef stock (Simple Beef stock is posted on the site, unsalted and defatted)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed (you may choose to add more)
1 sprig thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
For The Braised Onions
18 -24 white pearl onions, peeled
1 1⁄2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1⁄2 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄2 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
2 sprigs parsley
salt & fresh ground pepper
For The Sautéed Mushrooms
1lb mushroom, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
- First prepare the bacon: cut off the rind and reserve.
- Cut the bacon into lardons about 1/4″ thick and 1 1/2″ long.
- Simmer the rind and the lardons for ten minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water.
- Drain and dry the lardons and rind and reserve.
- Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
- Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9″ – 10″ wide, 3″ deep) fireproof casserole and warm over moderate heat.
- Saute the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.
- Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
- Dry off the pieces of beef and saute them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides.
- Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon.
- In the same oil/fat, saute the onion and the carrot until softened.
- Pour off the fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion.
- Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.
- Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for 4 minutes.
- Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.
- Now, lower the heat to 325°F and remove the casserole from the oven.
- Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered.
- Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs and the bacon rind.
- Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.
- Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms and set them aside till needed.
Preparing the onion
- Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and wait till they sufficiently heat up.
- Add the onions to the skillet.
- Sauté over medium heat for about ten minutes, rolling the onions around so they can brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart.
- Pour in the stock, season to taste, add the herbs, and cover.
- Simmer over low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes (depends on the number of onions you are cooking) until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
- Remove the herbs and set the onions aside.
Preparing the mushrooms
- Heat the butter in a preferably enameled skillet.
- As soon as the foam from the butter begins to subside add the mushrooms.
- Do not crowd the mushrooms in the pan, else they won’t brown.
- Cook them in batches if needed.
- As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.
To Finish the Stew
- When the meat is tender, remover the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a sieve set over a saucepan.
- Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it discarding the bits of carrot and onion and herbs which remain in the sieve. (I only discarded the herbs and kept everything else)
- Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat.
- Simmer it for a minute or two, skimming off any fat which rises to the surface.
- You should be left with about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
- If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock.
- If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.
- Taste for seasoning.
- Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
- If you are serving immediately, place the covered casserole over medium low heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
- Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley.
- If serving later or the next day, allow the casserole to cool and place cold, covered casserole in the refrigerator.
- 20 minutes prior to serving, place over medium low heat and simmer very slowly for ten minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.