julia child is one of the main reasons why i started cooking, why i wear pearls, why i went to le cordon bleu & why i have a le creuset collection. her unabashed love of butter, proper french technique & outrageousness in the kitchen gave me the cooking bug at an early age. when i was a little girl, i would watch baking with julia every saturday on pbs. it was just amazing to me what was possible in the kitchen. the accompanying cookbook is a beautiful thing & was also the first 'grown up' cookbook i ever got... it still has the tag in it from christmas '96.
what was so great about julia, was that she didn't cut any corners, unlike most of the drivel on the food network these days (rachael ray, i'm talking to you). she showed people that if you followed the steps properly, and took the time & care required you would always be rewarded with a wonderful dish.
last week i was in a boeuf bourguignon frame of mind - perhaps the most famous of julia's recipes given the popularity of the movie julie & julia. normally i don't follow recipes when i'm cooking but thought this would be fun...
so i started off with stewing beef from getaway farm. the key to developing all of the flavour in beef is to properly brown it off. the trick for getting the best sear is to pat it dry first - instead of sticking to the pan, it will cook up nicely and release naturally (the same goes for most other proteins - particularly sea scallops).
i just blotted it on some brown paper towels and cooked up the bacon in the meantime. for this recipe, of course that had to be done in a le creuset pan.
once the bacon is crispy and all the fat has rendered, remove it from the pan and begin to cook off the beef in the bacon fat - either open a window or disable your smoke detector for this part! the trick is to not overcrowd the pan. work in batches because a single layer at a time is more than enough.
this took awhile given the quantity that i was producing so i had my mirepoix cooking off at the same time. a classic mirepoix is just onion, celery & carrot and is at the root of a fair number of classic french dishes. i wanted in to cook down nicely so i cut it pretty small and threw in some bay leaves and minced garlic for good measure. this was done in a large roasting pan and as each batch of beef was browned off i could just fire it in on top.
when all of the beef was done, my poor pan looked a little sad.
but that's the beauty of deglazing. when it's still smoking hot, just pour in some red wine, scrape up all the yummy bits off the bottom with a wooden spoon & you're good to go.
julia's recipe calls for a young & light-bodied red wine. this is the wine i've been using lately for cooking. it still tastes pretty good & the price is definitely right given that the recipe calls for 3 cups of it and i was making a double batch...
so add all the wine into the casserole dish along with beef stock (i just used water - i figure if you do a good enough job browning off the meat, you don't have to rely on stock to add flavour - sorry julia, blasphemy i know) and a healthy dollop of tomato paste - it gives great body & richness as it cooks down.
cover & fire it in the oven until the meat is falling apart. i finished it with a little butter, sauteed mushrooms & chopped flat-leaf parsley which really brightens it up after a long cooking time.
i served it with parmesan mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, white turnips, glazed carrots & roasted brussels sprouts.
i guess it went over pretty well, i'm already sold out of smalls & have 2 or 3 larges left... don't worry though, i think i'll be adding this one to the permanent rotation. and don't be afraid to try this on your own - the exact measurements and instructions are all over the internet.
and as julia would say - 'bon appetit!'