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Today, August 15, 2012, would be Julia Child‘s 100th birthday. Julia is a bit of a hero to me. She taught Americans to cook and paved the way for all celebrity chefs. But Julia is inspirational to me for other, more personal, reasons.
Julia Child started her career as an advertising copywriter in New York City. During World War II she joined the US government’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS) where she met her future husband Paul Child (a New Jersey native). It was not until Julia was in her late 30’s that she began to pursue the creative career that would launch her to stardom. Her first, and most famous, cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was published when Julia was 49. Julia began her storied TV career in 1963 when she was already in her 50s.
Having spent many years in the business world pursuing a career in line with my education, I have now taken a different tack. Stepping back from the corporate world, for at least a while, has afforded me the wonderful opportunity to be home with my kids. This change has given me the chance to embrace and develop in myself a creativity that I only suspected existed. Gardening, cooking and food and nature photography have opened up a new world for me. While I have no plans to become a TV chef, learning about Julia and how she was able to completely change her career and forge success in a creative field at a more advanced age gives me hope and inspiration! Who knows where it may lead.
A couple of weeks ago I took on the challenge of making Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe exactly as written. It was not an endeavor I was planning to blog about so I did not take photos of the process. I did, however, take a couple of shots of the finished product. It serves as proof of having managed to successfully recreate this more challenging of recipes. A badge of honor! The resulting dish was exquisite beyond compare. Truly.
The version I present to you below is only slightly adapted. It is already essentially a paleo recipe. I left out the flour to make it gluten-free and cut out a couple of steps related to cooking the flour. I also changed the quantity and type of bacon to make things easier (and because I like bacon!) Obviously the flour would have thickened the sauce but we did not particularly find this to be an issue. The resulting dish is extremely rich and flavorful. It is a great dish to make and then refrigerate to have a following day. The flavors only get better with time. Mmmm.
This recipe is adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961)
Boeuf Bourguignon (Gluten-Free)
- 8-ounces of slab bacon (nitrate/nitrite-free, pasture-raised if possible)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or lard
- 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1 onion, sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 3 cups red wine (one bottle), young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
- 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- A crumbled bay leaf
- Cut the bacon into 1/4″ thick and 1-1/2″ long pieces.
- Blanch the bacon by bring 1-1/2 quarts water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the bacon for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, discard the blanching liquid, then dry bacon with paper towels.
- Sauté bacon in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil (or lard) in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Cut beef into 2″ cubes then pat dry using paper towels; they will not brown if damp. Heat leftover bacon fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add up to four beef cubes at a time. Sauté until nicely browned on all six sides, then remove and let rest with the bacon. It will take 4 to 5 batches, between 8 to 10 minutes per batch.
- In the same fat, sauté the sliced onions and carrots until slightly browned for about 5 minutes.
- Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Stir in the bottle of red wine, and 2 to 3 cups beef stock; enough to barely submerge the meat.
- Add the 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 2 mashed garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1 crumbled bay leaf. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
- Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
Brown Braised Onions and Mushrooms
- 18 to 24 small, white, boiler onions
- 3-1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
- 1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
- About an hour before the meat is done, begin preparing the onions and mushrooms. Assemble you herb bouquet, by adding 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon thyme in a small square of cheesecloth and tying with kitchen twine.
- Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons butter with 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil until bubbling in a skillet.
- Add boiler 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. They will not brown uniformly.
- Add 1/2-cup of beef stock, the herb bouquet, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes; swirling occasionally; until the onions are very tender but still hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Discard the herb bouquet and set cooked onions aside.
- Wipe out skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. Once the bubbling begins to subside add the quartered mushrooms. Toss and swirl pan for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat once they have begun to brown lightly.
- After 3 to 4 hours in the oven the beef should be very tender. Pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wipe out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it, then distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Discard the used carrots and whatever else is left in your sieve.
- Use a wide, shallow spoon to skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for 1 to 2 minutes, again skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2-1/2 cups of sauce; about the consistency of heavy cream. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper according to taste.
- Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
- Serve directly in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with sides of vegetables. You can also decorate with parsley.
Bon Appetit, Julia!