Monday, October 12, 2009

Inspired by Julia Child

Ever since seeing the movie Julie/Julia, I've been wanting to make Boeuf Bourguignon, but it is a dish that is most fun shared with friends over glasses of red wine. This past weekend we enjoyed the company of our relations from Sweetie's side of the family, including little C, a lover of model trains just like Sweetie. It gave me the excuse I needed to immerse myself in Julia Child's wonderful recipe. Since I was using California Cabernet Sauvignon instead of a burgundy, I'm calling it Boeuf au Vin Rouge. Most of the recipe is straight out of her book, From Julia Child's Kitchen, although I did the tiny onions my own way and I did include the chopped onions from the simple beef stew recipe.

I highly recommend that you make this dish if you enjoy beef. It is perfect for company since it makes a quantity of stew and you can make it ahead (it's actually best that way), plus it is impressive with it's richness and delightful combination of meat, mushrooms, onions and herbs. It looks like a long recipe, but that is because Julia leaves nothing to chance...she wants you to be successful and tells you how to do each step. If you can brown beef and cut onions and mushrooms, you can make this!

Boeuf au Vin Rouge – Beef in Red Wine
Based on Boeuf Bourguignon in From Julia Child’s Kitchen
Serves 6-8

3 – 4 lbs beef stew meat cut into either 2-inch squares or 3- by 1/1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups drinkable red wine…I used a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon
2 or more cups good beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
a 2 inch piece of dried orange peel
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 or more cloves garlic
salt and pepper as needed
The onions – 1 10 oz bag frozen small onions (see note below)
The mushrooms – ½ lb or more whole fresh white mushrooms – I used almost a pound, because we like mushrooms
Beurre manie’ for the final sauce: 3 tablespoons flour blended with 2 ½ tablespoons butter

Dry beef with paper towels. Film a large, heavy frying pan with 1/16 inch oil and heat to very hot but not smoking. Add the pieces of beef, as many as will fit in 1 layer without crowding them. Brown nicely on all sides, regulating the heat so fat is always very hot but not smoking. Add more oil as needed. As each piece of meat if browned, transfer it to a heavy to 5 quart casserole with a cover. Continue browning beef and removing browned beef to casserole until all pieces are browned.

Stir the onions into oil left in the pan (add more if needed) and brown briefly, then transfer to the casserole. Discard any browned fat. Pour a cup of wine or stock into the pan, bring to simmer, scraping up coagulated browning juices, and pour this liquid over the beef in the casserole.

Set the casserole over heat; add the wine and enough stock barely to cover the meat. Add the bay, thyme, orange peel, tomato paste and garlic clove which have been cut in half. Bring to a simmer, taste, and salt lightly if necessary. Cover and cook at a slow simmer either on top of the stove or in the oven. (For oven cooking, start at 350 degrees, then lower heat in 20 – 30 minutes to 325 or even 300 degrees.

Simmer approximately 1 ½ - 2 hours unless your meat is shank or heel meat, which will take longer. The beef should be tender enough for a pleasant chew, but not be falling apart.

While the beef is simmering prepare the onions and mushrooms:
I used bagged, frozen small onions which have already been peeled. If you want to go with fresh onions, e-mail me and I’ll give you those directions.

Bring ½ inch of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add one piece of bacon, cut into rectangles and simmer for 1 minute. Add the frozen onions and cover. Simmer for another minute. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for 3 minutes. Pour the onions and the cooking liquid into a large bowl.

Trim off dry or sandy stem ends, wash the mushrooms thoroughly but rapidly, and dry in a towel. Leave whole if ¾ inch across or less. If larger quarter them lengthwise. Film the frying pan with 1/16 inch oil and heat to very hot but not smoking. Add enough mushroom to cover the bottom of the pan and shake pan by the handle to toss the mushrooms about for 2 – 3 minutes until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add them to the bowl with the cooked onions, then continue until all the mushrooms are browned.

When the beef is tender, set a large colander over a saucepan and pour contents of casserole into colander. Wash out casserole and return the meat to it. Press juices out of remains in colander, and discard residue. Make sure that you have removed the bay leaf and discarded it.
Skim fat off cooking liquid in saucepan, and taste liquid carefully for strength and seasoning. You should have about 3 cups of delicious meaty rich stock. Boil down rapidly in the saucepan if weak, to concentrate flavor, adding a bit more stock or bouillon or wine, herbs, garlic, or tomato paste if you feel them necessary.
Remove from heat, blend the beurre manie’ into the liquid with a wire whisk. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring, as it thickens into a light sauce. Check for seasonings.

Add the onions and mushroom mixture to the beef in the casserole. Pour the sauce over it all and simmer 5 – 6 minutes, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce to blend flavors.

The dish is now ready to serve, but the flavor improves if you stop at this point and refrigerate it overnight, then re-heat it over gentle heat the next day.

Serve with rice or noodles, perhaps garnished with chopped parsley. Have some good bread on hand to mop up the sauce. You can serve from the casserole, or mound the meat and vegetables and sauce on a platter and surround with the rice or noodles.

I used a large patter with raised sides and served the boeuf with steamed rice. It was delicious and well worth the time. I had some leftovers tonight and it was even better than two nights ago, so you could make this three or four days in advance of serving and know that it will be even more delightful that way.

There is nothing really difficult about this dish, it just takes some time to cut up and brown all that meat, then do the same with some onions and lots of mushrooms. Simmering takes time, but you really can do it in advance. Making the sauce takes about 15 minutes or less. The rich flavors make this a very impressive dish. If you serve it to guests they will think that you slaved over a hot stove for much longer than you did. You can also freeze this, although I would only freeze the meat, chopped onions, and sauce and add the mushrooms and tiny onions the day you plan on serving the dish.

Keep accompaniments simple…a nice green salad, cooked rice or noodles, some steamed peas, some good bread, and more red wine are all you need. “Bon app├ętit!”, as Julia would say.


  1. That looks yummy. You know, after all the drama, the Julie of the Julie/Julia film has written another book... about her infidelity. Do you suppose she'll get another movie out of it?

    I will always prefer Paul and JULIA. They were the real thing.

  2. Elle, can I come over just for this stew?? So delicious@

  3. Yummy! Beef in wine is certainly delicious especially when it has mushrooms in it! Love what you did with this dish!

  4. I've already marked this dish for the DVD-release. :)

  5. Funny: reading the ingredients, I can hear Julia Child saying "tomato" and her "a" sounds like "ahhh." :)

  6. I just saw the first photograph, realized that mushrooms were involved and had to click through. Oh I want of that and the rice to soak up the sauce. Oh man!

  7. I love the old classics, slow food rules and this beef (Boeuf)looks just the business.
    Lovely stuff.