Posts Tagged ‘Boeuf Bourguignon’

In a Stew about the Oscars

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

(Courtesy of Omelette/AMPAS)

The Oscars are coming!
Abuse them as much as you like. I know all the arguments against Hollywood’s annual tribute to itself. The televised show is long and boring and still manages to leave out many important categories. The statuettes are awarded to middlebrow fare. The whole shebang revolves around money rather than quality.
I don’t care. Oscar Night is a highlight of my year.
Years ago I hosted annual Academy-Award parties. My guests and I ate movie-themed food and watched the awards knowing that most of us had seen many of the nominated films—certainly the majority of the best-picture nominees.
My life is now more complicated, and I don’t get out to the movies as I used to. This year, alas, I have not seen A SINGLE FILM on the best-picture roster, despite the increased odds now that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has expanded the number of nominees from five to ten.
I no longer stay in one place long enough to give a huge Oscar party so I don’t plan a huge Oscar menu.
Nevertheless, on Sunday evening I have to make and eat at least one dish that pays tribute to a film from 2009. Oprah and Barbara are busy getting ready for their star-studded televised Oscar Specials. My own production will be a more modest Blue-Plate Special.
It hasn’t been hard to select a film to honor. Like every other food lover in the United States last year I saw Julie & Julia.
I found the original book Julie & Julia fun but not scintillating. The film adaptation captured my heart, however.
In the book, blogger-turned-author Julie Powell described the “Julie & Julia Project,” in which she spent a year making every recipe in Julia Child’s groundbreaking work Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
To augment her own adventures Powell recreated bits of Child’s biography, bits that didn’t have the sincerity or humor that she projected into her descriptions of her own life and cooking.
In the film, writer/director Nora Ephron had more resources on which to draw. She used Child’s account of her life; her own experiences (a former food writer, Ephron knows the lure of a full plate); and cinematic tools such as set design, costumes, and music. (One doesn’t get to hear both Doris Day and Charles Aznavour on very many soundtracks!)
Above all, Ephron took advantage of a magical cast, headed by Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Stanley Tucci as her supportive husband Paul. The two emerged as the Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon of 2009, a seemingly natural and ideal cinematic couple.
Meryl Streep is cooking with gas as Julia Child. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Meryl Streep is cooking with gas as Julia Child. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Julie & Julia the book is a collaboration of two partners, one of them dead and trapped in a book. Julie & Julia the movie is a collaboration of hundreds of creative partners. It invites the audience into that partnership as well, encouraging us to believe that cooking and love can help a woman of any age fulfill her dreams.
Fans of the book OR the movie who live in western Massachusetts may want to attend some of the Julie/Julia events in local libraries between now and March 20. These include book discussions, cooking demonstrations, and Julia Child impersonations! For details on the innovative “Tale for Ten Towns” project, visit its web site
Those of you planning to watch the Oscars Sunday evening may also want to join me in making a Julia-themed dish. Here is a recipe I always associate with Julia Child, Beef Burgundy—or, as she would say in her indelibly American accent, “Boeuf Bourguignon.“
Because I am neither Julie nor Julia I don’t actually make this dish the way they would. I appreciate Child’s contributions to American cooking and treasure both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Nevertheless, I am a simple cook. I see those volumes as reference books rather than cookbooks. The only dish I ever make straight out of them is Child’s version of scrambled eggs. Even then I cut down on the butter.
I do use one of Child’s tricks to good effect in this recipe, however, and that is saving the little onions and the mushrooms until the last minute so they don’t stew down so much that they are invisible.
My version is simple to make and perfect for a cozy evening spent in front of the television set watching film personalities emote and cavort. I offer it in homage to a great cook and an enjoyable film.
Bon appétit!
Not Julia’s (or even Julie’s) Beef Burgundy
1-1/2 pounds stew beef, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cloves of garlic, 1 crushed and 1 minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
several turns of the pepper mill
2 tablespoons flour, divided
1 small onion, finely cut
1-1/2 cups red wine (plus a little more if needed)
1 cup water (plus a little more if needed)
several sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
a small amount of butter for sautéing
1 cup tiny onions with their ends cut off
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced (the slices should be fairly thick—no more than four per mushroom)
chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. When it has heated toss the meat, the crushed garlic clove, the oil, and the salt and pepper together in a sturdy, uncovered Dutch oven.
Place the pot in the hot oven until the meat browns (this takes between 10 and 15 minutes). While the meat is in the oven be sure to stir it every few minutes to ensure even browning. When most of us it has browned stir in 1 tablespoon of flour and let it continue to brown.
When the meat is brown carefully remove the pot from the oven and turn the oven off. Use a slotted spoon to take out the garlic clove (which you may discard) and the meat, which you should reserve.
Add the onion and garlic pieces to the gravy in the pot, and sauté them for a couple of minutes.
Whisk in the remaining flour for a minute or two; then deglaze the pan with a little of the wine. Add in the remaining wine and the water; then stir in the thyme and bay leaf, the carrots, and the reserved meat.
Bring the stew to a boil; then cover and reduce the heat. Cook the mixture until the beef can be pierced by a fork (about 2 hours). Check and stir it every half hour, but make sure you cover it completely after checking (you don’t want it to dry out!).
If you have time after the beef has cooked, allow the stew to cool to room temperature and then chill it. You will then be able to skim off much of the fat easily. If you don’t have time—and/or don’t care about fat—ignore this step.
Shortly before you are ready to serve the stew, melt a little butter in a frying pan, and quickly sauté the small onions and the mushrooms. Add them to the beef mixture, and stir to make sure they are covered in sauce.
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. If the flavor is too strong, add a little water. Simmer on the stove top for 5 to 10 minutes.
Garnish the dish with parsley and serve over noodles or potatoes. Serves 6.



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