With Love from Julia
When it comes to a very traditional rich family favourite like Beef Bourguignon, it's good to go straight to someone who really knew how to get the job done. Julia was my obvious go to and it was her many famous words of wisdom, including this quote below which is seen on every foodies fridge magnet world wide, that perfectly matches this rich, hearty and simply delicious dish...
"I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food..."
image credit: Julia on the set of The French Chef (WGBH)
I love love Julia Child, how could you not? She was a wonderful inspiration for what people can do when they set their mind to it. If you're not familiar, she was an American chef, author and TV chef who was the first to bring French cuisine to the American people. May not sound too remarkable in the scheme of today's culinary food heroes, but let me delve a little deeper to share this eccentric foodies story and you can make up your own mind.
image credit: Paul Child/WGBH
Born in Pasadena, California in 1912 she was the child to non foodie folk (poor bugger!). Her father was a Princeton University graduate and prominent landowner and her mother a paper company heiress. So fancy! With parents like those she was destined to be something, but seemingly nothing to do with any cooking related roles as she was quoted "a disaster in the kitchen". Her early introductions to food came directly from her family's cook and not her parents, so it wasn't until she met Paul Cushing Child whilst working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (now the CIA), that he and food, rocked her world. Ahhh the office romance! Paul was an American Artist, Poet and Teacher who had lived in Paris and was known for his 'sophisticated palate', so let's just call him a foodie shall we! They married in 1946 and after Paul joined the United States Foreign Service, in 1948 they moved to Paris.
The Shark Recipe
But before we move onto Paris I need to tell you about Julia's first real claim to fame and although it may not seem to be heading towards a cooking moment, it was just that. Whilst working at OSS at the height of WWII there became an alarmingly number of shark attack deaths to sailors and airman whilst on missions over ocean waters. OSS formed a committee with Julia in collaboration, to search for a shark repellent. After many concoctions along the way, the winning recipe of copper acetate mixed with a dye, was baked into a small cake and could be strapped to a life jacket, belt, leg or a piece of equipment, and could deter sharks for up to 7 hours. As mentioned on Fox News, Julia told her producer,
"I could boil water for tea but my first big recipe was shark repellent that I mixed in a bathtub for the Navy"
image credit: Paul Child from"My Life in France", the autobiographical book by Julia Child.
Paris and Paul
It was on the journey to their new home in Paris in November 1948 where Julia's culinary revelation took place. Their first meal together in France following a purposeful flick through the Michelin Guide, saw them at La Couronne a beautiful medieval Inn in Rouen, who had been serving customers since 1343, wow! Once seated in the restaurant, Julia noted "heavenly aromas" coming from the rotary spit by the large fire and was amused to hear the waiter on a nearby table explaining how the chicken was raised, how it was to be cooked and what side dishes would accompany. Quite possibly more amusing to her was the wine commentary. Who would have thought to match wine with food, and at lunchtime! The meal Paul chose has become part of culinary history and La Couronne still serve it to this day. Julia wrote in her book 'My Life in France' that the meal which consisted of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine, was...
“absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life”
"an opening up of the soul and spirit for me"
image credit: www.lacouronne.com.fr of La Couronne, Rouen
She was a master for describing the tastes and flavours of a meal, if you would like to read more about how she explained this one, you can check it out here as she reflects on her first meal in France.
And she was off
From this moment she was hooked, almost literally, line and sinker! She studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and later privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs. Her first book 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking', was published in 1961 and took a remarkable 9 years to produce. Gee and I thought these blogs took a long time! This book and her subsequent TV appearance on a book review show in 1962 where she waltzed into the studio with a hotplate, spatula and eggs, and demonstrated how to cook an omelette (of all things), won her the hearts of many American's. It was soon after that her very own TV series The French Chef debuted in February 1963.
"the egg can be your best friend if you just give it the right break"
image credit: townandcountrymag.com. Julia and Paul Child
There was no where to hide!
I've watched many of these shows and for me this is where 'remarkable' comes to mind. This was in the 60's where there were no re-takes, remakes, stylists or assistants, it was just plain and simple unedited cooking for 30 minutes straight. There were spatulas flying out of mixers, flipped potato dishes which ended up all over the stove, uncooked tart tartins sliding off plates, equipment being tossed to the floor in the middle of a dish if it became annoying, and many (many) "match it with your favourite..." miss pronounced wine moments. She was whimsical, funny, a fabulous mentor and certainly a pioneer of food on TV. I found this amusing compilation for you below, keep with it for the tart tartin bit and the tossing of the "dont know why I hang onto these things" utensils section and you will get the drift of what I'm on about. Just love her.
YouTube credit: Julia Child - Favourite Moments from The French Chef by Denis Behr
Although she was not the first TV chef, she was certainly up there with the most famous with her career spanning over 4 decades. Together with her remarkable 'The French Chef' TV series, she also published 19 other books, starred in 12 other TV series, won numerous awards including a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, 3 Emmy's and a National Book Award, to name a few. She was also the recipient of a French Legion of Honour and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her custom built kitchen that her husband Paul built (love him!) to accommodate her 6-foot 2-inches height, and which was used as the set in three of her TV series, was donated to Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington.
She was an amazing inspiration and still is to this day. We can celebrate her life by a beautiful legacy of her many famous words of wisdom, which we still see popping up everywhere around the place today. Here's a few of my faves
"find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it"
"people who love to eat are always the best people"
"the only real stumbling block is fear or failure. In cooking you've got to have a
"a party without a cake is really just a meeting"
"the only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook"
"cooking well doesn't mean cooking fancy"
"always remember: if you're alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who's going to know?"
"life itself is the proper binge"
Onto our Beef Bourguignon (or Boeuf Bourguignon)
I was looking for a nice diner to cook ahead of time as a surprise for a couple of friends who I was picking up to take to a 'mystery' dinner location. Instead I drove them straight to my place and treated them to this stunning hearty dish. This is where 'Julia' kicked in as she was the master of simple, hearty cooking and especially for this 'peasant' styled, 'make ahead of time' dish.
I since realised that this dish, aside from her inaugural TV 'omelette' appearance, was in fact her very first cooking TV show recipe in The French Chef series - hoorah indeed! Just so you can get yourself into the groove before beginning your dish, if you have a spare 30 mins, plonk yourself down, maybe with a baguette and creamy camembert in tow (and maybe a "burgundy wiiiiine") and watch this Master bring this dish to life.
YouTube credit: Julia Child - boeuf bourguignon by Óscar
You can follow along with her recipe, but there's a few too many pots for me so I've stuck to just about the same ingredients, but sped things up a little in the method below.
This recipe has been adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Alfred A. Knopf. 1961)
170g bacon, cut into lardons (sticks approx 1/2cm x 4cm long)
2 tbsp olive oil
1.3kg lean stewing steak (chuck is great for this recipe), cut into large pieces (5cm x 5cm)
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
3 cups red wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 loved garlic, mashed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
8 sprigs of parsley, 4 kept whole, 4 with leaves picked and roughly chopped for garnish
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups of beef stock
18-24 small white onions (see note), peeled and kept whole
450g button mushrooms, quartered
serve with mash potato, green beans or buttered peas
Preheat oven to 160C
Using a large flameproof casserole dish (one with a lid), add 1/2 tbsp olive oil and cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Dry beef on paper towel. Add 1 tbsp of oil to pan which had the bacon and bring it to smoking point. Brown meat in batches until seared on all sides. Remove and set aside with bacon.
In the same pan with heat at medium, and 1/2 tbsp of butter and sauté carrot and onion for 3-4 mins or until just tender. Return bacon and beef to pan with the vegetables and toss with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
Sprinkle on the flour and toss to coat meat and cook for 2-3 mins or until flour is starting to brown.
Stir in wine, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, bay, 4 whole parsley sprigs, onions and add just enough stock to cover meat. Bring it to a simmer on the stove, cover tightly with lid, then pop it into the oven for 3-3.5 hours or until meat easily comes apart with a fork.
In the meantime, when your meat is just about ready, add remaining oil and butter to a frypan over medium-high heat and once melted and the bubbles have started to subside, add mushrooms. Cook for 3-4 mins or until they begin to brown. Remove from heat.
Remove parsley stalk and bay (if you can find them) and gently mix mushrooms into casserole and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with mash potato and green beans, or as Julia would say"buttered peas would be your best choice". Serves 6
If you don't have a casserole with a lid you can use foil to cover your dish, just ensure it's tightly wrapped so the moisture stay's inside when cooking.
If you can't find small white onions (like me), I just used french shallots or eschalots for this recipe and added about 15 to the pot. They gave a lovely sweetness to the dish.
The original recipe calls for the onions to be par cooked and browned separately in butter, stock and then with a herb bouquet (or bouquet garni - little muslin bag with herbs inside which can be easily removed the the end of cooking). I chose to skip this step and add the onions directly to the pot. The result was still great.
For even less pots to clean, you can choose to add the mushrooms to the casserole pot at the same time as the wine, stock and herbs etc are added (just prior to it going into the oven), but these are really a lovely addition to the dish just before serving. I feel it was worth one more dirty pan just to give the dish a little extra lift prior to serving.
The original recipe calls for the cooked casserole to be sieved so the sauce is separated and can easily be thickened to your liking, by popping it into a small saucepan and simmer until it reduces. The remaining ingredients (beef, bacon and onions), including the cooked mushrooms, are to be gently mixed to combine and the sauce is served over the top of the mixture. Personally I love to eat it all so no need to sieve for me, if it's not thick enough for you, pop it onto your stovetop and gently simmer with lid removed to help reduce the liquid. Then just add your mushrooms, stir and serve (again less dishes to clean - woo!). You can choose to make it your way.
LOVE YOUR FOOD MOMENTS... ENYOY!