Like everyone who saw Julie & Julia when it premiered in August, I sat in the movie theater with my mouth watering over the boeuf bourguignon, a rich, beef stew featured in the movie. The only problem was it was August, and the dish was a rich, beef stew, not exactly light summer fare.
So I made a mental note to revisit boeuf bourguignon when the weather became cooler. And then, when the weather did turn cold a few weeks ago, the dish completely slipped my mind. That is until Saturday when Chris from Pantry Raid posted about her experiences making Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon.
And just like that I had to make it. The only problem was Julia’s version was a bit too “potchked,” or fussy, for me at that moment. And it took too long, about 4 hours, and I was getting hungry. So instead I turned to a source I knew Julia would approve of, a new book I’d won by participating in a Julia Child blog contest: The Pleasures of Cooking for One, by Judith Jones, the editor of Mastering the Art of French Cooking who is credited with introducing Julia Child to America. There’s even a great scene in the movie where Judith’s character makes Julia’s recipe for boeuf bourguignon, propelling her to publish the book. Let’s just say this is a woman who knows her boeuf bourguignon.
I really love the concept of this book. Like the title suggests, it’s about cooking for one and using leftovers to create other meals. Many of the recipes are a bit too old-fashioned for my tastes, like minced chicken on toast, but there are also some great ideas that have inspired me to approach about my cooking differently, especially because like Judith I often cook for one.
Judith’s version of boeuf bourguignon is less fussy than Julia’s with no straining or cleaning of the pot involved, fewer ingredients, and takes about half the time. It also makes a much smaller portion, although I did go ahead and double the recipe because I’m a huge fan of leftovers.
The recipe was fantastic. In just two hours I had a wonderfully rich, tender, and fragrant dish that warmed me and my apartment. The only significant change I made was to simmer the cooking liquid separately at the end to make it more flavorful and give the finished dish a better mouthfeel because a thickened broth clings better to the meat.
Here’s the recipe:
Boeuf Bourguigon, adapted from The Pleasures of Cooking for One, by Judith Jones, p. 31
2 ounces bacon, diced (about 2 slices)
1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces, extra fat trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 carrot, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Salt (I probably used about 1 teaspoon but start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more as needed)
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
1/2 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 parsley stems
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
6 baby onions
1/2 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch by 1/4-inch sticks
2 new potatoes, diced
Heat the diced bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until browned. Remove the bacon and set on a plate leaving the fat in the pot. Add the olive oil.
Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Add half the beef to the pot, or as much as will fit without overcrowding. Brown the beef on all sides then set on the plate with the bacon. Repeat with the remaining beef.
Discard all but 1/2 tablespoon fat from the pot. Add the onions and carrots and cook until lightly browned. Return the meats to the pot along with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Sprinkle with flour, a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well.
Pour in the wine and broth, then add the bay leaf, garlic, parsley stems and dried thyme. Stir well. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid just to a boil, then decrease the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Prepare the baby onions while the beef is simmering: Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add the onions and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and submerge in ice water. Once cold, drain the onions, cut off the root end and squeeze the top. The peeled onion will pop out.
Check the meat after 1 hour by biting into a piece to determine if it’s almost done. Cook until the meat is tender but not falling apart. Add the vegetable garnishes and simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Remove the pot from the heat. Use a large spoon or ladle to transfer as much cooking liquid as you can into a small pot (I used the same one that I’d used to boil the onions). Don’t worry about getting small bits of onions or carrots in there. Pick out the bay leaf and parsley stems and discard. Simmer the liquid for 10 to 15 minutes, or until reduced by one-third.
Return the liquid to the beef and reheat gently if needed. Serve with rice or bread.