Growing up, Julia Child was always kind of a constant in my life – my family watched a lot of PBS and I saw her cooking shows often. She was kind of a given, always taken for granted, not that special. Recently, PBS has been showing marathons of her first show, The French Chef, and I’ve really come to appreciate her in a new way. She attacks cooking with gusto, isn’t afraid to make mistakes, and even back in the 60s, had a wonderful appreciation for fresh ingredients. It is striking how disarmingly charming her shows are in comparison to what you see on the likes of Food Network now, she clearly didn’t have a script and if she made a mistake, she made one, there was no do over. Makes her much more endearing than Rachel Ray or Bobby Flay, in my mind.
Here I present you her version of Boeuf Bourguignon, that classic French stew perfect for cold weather like this. If you’ve been tuning into my gourmet on a budget feature for a while, this will sound familiar as it’s pretty similar to coq au vin but with beef.
Budget: $20, serves 6 so $3.33 a serving.Ingredients:
- 6 oz of bacon – about 3 strips (approximately $1, I found bacon on sale for 2 lbs for $5 at Harris Teeter)
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (pantry)
- 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (approximately $12, but they were on sale at Harris Teeter – so I got it for $6)
- 1 carrot, sliced (2 lb of carrots for $2, maybe $.05 for serving)
- 1 onion, sliced ($3 lb of onions for $2, maybe $.20 for serving)
- Salt and pepper (pantry)
- 2 tablespoons flour (pantry)
- 3 cups red wine, Julia recommends Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy, I had Yellowtail Shiraz ($14 for 1.5 L – about $7 for serving)
- 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock ($2.75 for 4 cups, approximately $2 for serving)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste ($1.20 for 6 oz, maybe $.10 for serving)
- 2 cloves mashed garlic (pantry)
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme (pantry)
- 1 bay leaf (pantry)
- 18 to 24 white onions, small – I got pearl onions ($2.40 for 1 lb, about $1 for serving)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons butter – unsalted please (pantry)
- Herb bouquet – 4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, or whatever you have on hand (pantry)
Note: I have emitted mushrooms because I severely dislike them, but the recipe does call for them – saute with pearl onions if you want to use.
Total: $17.35 (I would have gone over if I didn’t find the beef on sale – it would have been $23) so $2.89 a serving, not bad!
- Cut bacon into lardons (thin strips). (Julia has you boil the bacon to get rid of the smoky flavor – it’s classic technique but I like the smoke of bacon so I didn’t do it).
- Preheat oven to 450 (if you have an oven-safe casserole, if not, don’t- I don’t have one so I did this all on the stove top).
- Sauté lardons, in largest pot you have, in a bit of olive oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes (Julia calls for 1 T, that seemed like too much for me). Remove and strain on paper towel.
- Dry beef in paper towels. Add beef to bacon fat, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides, don’t crowd the pan or you won’t get enough crust on the beef. I know it’s tempting to get it done faster, but it’s not worth it in the end. In fact, it will end up taking longer to develop a crust because the meat will steam.
- Remove beef from pan.
- In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat. I also deglazed the pan by adding some liquid (red wine) as I had a lot of bits stuck to the bottom of my pan.
- Return the beef and bacon to the pot and toss with salt and pepper (about 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper).
- Sprinkle flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes (if it’s oven-proof, if not leave on high heat).
- Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (again, leaving on stove top if you aren’t using oven).
- Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees (if you’re using the oven).
- Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.
- Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs (not herb bouquet). Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
- Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven (or set your burner on medium low heat). Liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
- While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions: heat 1 1/2 T butter with 1 1/2 T of olive oil in a skillet, add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible.
- Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet (tying with kitchen string or in cheesecloth).
- Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
- When the meat is tender, remove all of the ingredients, with sieve preferably – retain sauce.
- Return sauce to pot, skim fat off. Simmer sauce for 1-2 minutes. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon. If not thick enough add a little roux – equal parts butter and flour. I found I needed to add roux to thicken the sauce.
- Return meat and vegetables to sauce. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
- Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve with pasta, good bread, rice. You need something to sop up the sauce.
- And, as Julia would say, Bon Appetit!