A very very happy birthday to Julia Child, she would have been 98 years old on Sunday, August 15th. Julia passed away just 2 days before her birthday on August 13, 2004 and I remember waking up the next day to the news.
There are those people that have been a part of your life for so long that you haven't actually met in person that have always been there and when they pass there is great sadness that comes along with it. Julia Child was always a "real" person that was not so untouchable and anybody could relate to her. Even if you are cooking a gourmet French meal and it doesn't come out of the pan just right, you can fix it and don't worry nobody will know. She was able to bring everyday people to the love of cooking and French food at a time when the housewives of the United States were moving to shortcuts and canned and frozen meals.
Today its not that much different, there are people like Sandra Lee and Rachel Ray out there telling you that you can't make a good home cooked meal without the shortcuts and dumbing down the food. But you can! I changed Julia's most famous dish, Boeuf Bourguignon just a tiny bit and found a way to make it even faster. In honor of Julia, make it this weekend and raise a glass to her and say BON APPETIT!
Boeuf Bourguignon jeuner acheminet (fast forward)
Adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961)
Time: About 3 hours (normally 5 to 6 hours)
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon or 6 or 7 strips of bacon
3 ½ tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 ½ to 3 ½ cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
½ teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 small white onions
3 ½ tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms.
1. Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks ¼-inch thick and 1 ½ inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 ½ quarts water. Drain and dry.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
3. Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
4. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.
5. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ 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 coves the meat with a light crust). Remove casserole and turn oven down to 375 degrees.
6. Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind and small onions. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 2 hours. Turn up the heat to 415 degrees and continue to cook until the meat is tender and a fork pierces it easily about 45 minutes to an hour more.
7. While the beef is cooking, prepare the mushrooms. Heat 1 ½ tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add mushrooms and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible8. 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.
9. 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. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 ½ 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.
Hope you all did something to celebrate this grand dame of the culinary world.
and as Julia would say Bon Appetit!
You can see a few more of my Julia French Food pics on the CookingChannel.com special online feature