The moment that I saw this month's Daring Cooks' Challenge posted, I smiled.
Our May 2012 Daring Cooks' hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.
So why did I smile?
First of all, Fabi is wonderful, so I was thrilled to see her hosting.
Secondly, Boeuf Bourguignon has been on my wish list of things to make ever since reading and seeing Julie & Julia. And, as luck would have it, Fabi chose Julia Child's recipe as the basis for our challenge.
As excited as I was, it took me until just a few days before today's posting date to actually make the dish. Call it nerves, call it lack of time, call it needing to make sure I had all of the ingredients on hand... but once I put the dish on the weekly meal plan, I couldn't wait.
The process started bright and early in the morning.
It started with bacon.
And then onions and carrots.
Once those basics were browned, sauteed and otherwise started, it was time to combine them, adding in some spices and some flour.
And then comes the sauce. Boeuf Bourguignon's sauce is made predominantly with red wine. Traditionally, a Burgundy is probably the way to go. Me? I know nothing about wine. We had two bottles in the house - a sweet red and a merlot. I chose the merlot.
Once this mixture came up to a simmer on the stove top, it was time to transfer the whole thing to the oven. Most people use a Dutch oven for this dish, since it can go directly from the stove top to the oven (and back, if need be...). I don't have a Dutch oven, so I had to get creative. I started the process in my largest frying pan, and, at this point, transferred the whole thing to my 9" x 13" pyrex baking pan, with parchment paper as a cover.
As this whole concoction simmered deliciously in the oven, I took my time preparing the other components.
The first was the small onions.
The kids thought they were cute. And, you know, I did too.
These little guys were braised in butter (for the sautee) and beef broth.
And now the house smelled even better.
And lastly, mushrooms. Sauteed in even more butter. This is, after all, Julia Child's recipe.
A mere 5 hours after starting, all of the components were ready
Where's all of the delicious sauce, you may be asking.
In a saucepan, being simmered and reduced on the stove top.
Then everything was put back together.
By dinner time, I could not wait a moment longer.
Served over a bed of egg noodles, dinner was served.
Holy deliciousness. The flavor was so rich and full bodied, the meat so tender. Everything came together perfectly and every enjoyed every bite.
Believe it or not, it really was worth all of that time.
Because, contrary to its reputation, this really wasn't all that difficult. Fussy? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Creates a huge mess of dishes to be washed? You bet.
But completely, totally and deliciously worth it.
Fabi, thank you so much for challenging us to make this delicious dish. I have no idea when I would have made this without your push. You were a wonderful, supportive hostess and I was so glad to cook with you this month!
To see the delicious Boeuf's stewed up in the kitchen this month, check them out here.
(from Julia Child's recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as given in the challenge)
6 oz. streaky bacon
3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine
1 carrot, sliced (I used three carrots, cut into chunks) (and will probably use more carrots next time)
1 onion, sliced in julienne
1 1/2 - 2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste or tomato puree (I used tomato paste)
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
18-24 small onions, brown-braised in stock
1 pound mushrooms sauteed in butter
Fresh parsley sprigs (for garnish, to serve, optional)
Blanch the bacon: Remove the rind. Cut the bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick, 1/2 inch long) and simmer everything in 4 cups of water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry carefully with paper towels.
Dry the meat cubes carefully with paper towels.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a fireproof casserole or frying pan, saute the bacon in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2-3 minutes until they are lightly brown (mine took a little longer). Remove them to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
In the same casserole or pan, sautee the beef until it is golden brown. Remove it to the side dish where the bacon has been set aside.
Still in the same pan, sautee the carrot and onion.
Return the bacon and beef to the pan with the vegetables. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper, then add the flour. Toss to coat evenly.
Place the pan/casserole into the oven in the middle position, for four minutes to give the meat a good crust.
Remove the pan/casserole from the oven and return it to the stove top.
Stir in the wine, stock, tomato paste, crushed garlic, thyme, bay leaf and blanched bacon rind.
Bring the mixture to its simmering point on the stove.
If you have been using a frying pan (like I was), now is the time to transfer the stew to an oven-safe dish/baking dish.
Cover the casserole or baking dish (if you are not using a dish with a cover, use foil or, like I did, parchment paper). Place the dish in the oven and adjust the temperature so that the liquid is slowly simmering, as this will stay in the oven for three to four hours. I found that mine was happiest between 225 and 250 degrees.
While the meat is stewing, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
For the onions - melt one tablespoon of butter in a frying pan (I used a small saucepan) and sautee the peeled small onions until they are golden brown. Add beef stock until they are almost (but not) covered and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until almost all of the liquid disappears. The onions will be tender, but will retain their shape. Set the braised onions aside.
For the mushrooms - wash and quarter the mushrooms, and sautee them in two tablespoons of butter. Stir them continuously until they are nicely browned. Set the mushrooms aside.
When the meat is tender, pour the meat through a sieve over a saucepan. Clean out the casserole or baking dish and return the meat (and onions and carrots and everything other than the sauce) to the dish. Put the onions and mushrooms over the meat.
Skim off any fat from the sauce and simmer it on the stove, skimming any additional fat that rises. Simmer the sauce until it thickens enough to coat the back of your spoon. If it thickens too much, add some stock.
Pour the sauce over the stew. Return the stew to the stove or oven (I chose oven, you can choose whichever you are comfortable with) to reheat through.
Garnish with sprigs of fresh parsley.
Serve over potatoes (roasted, mashed - whatever you like!), noodles (I chose egg noodles, though I really want to try it over spaetzel!) or rice, or whatever else sounds good to you.