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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: Cooking Project: Boeuf Bourguignon

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cooking Project: Boeuf Bourguignon

Yesterday I decided to tackle a recipe I've been wanting to try for quite some time: Boeuf Bourguignon, aka Beef Burgundy. I'd read Julia Child's recipe before and I couldn't get it out of my head. I love me some beef stew, but this looked really delicious and I love a challenge. And it definitely looked at least slightly time-consuming, so I figured I'd give it a shot once I convinced Rob that we should try it. He is a beef stew fan as well so it wasn't too hard to convince him.

The first thing I did was prep my meat. I got about 2 1/2 pounds of stew meat (yes, I cook in bulk!) and dried it all as thoroughly as possible - the drier the meat, the better it browns.

Next I cut up 8 oz of bacon into pieces and slowly sauteed it until it started to brown and the fat was rendered. The recipe calls for 6 oz, and for it to be bought in one big hunk and cut into sticks...but that wasn't happening at the local Giant, so I improvised. And really, more bacon = more yumminess, right?

While the bacon was sauteeing I diced up a few carrots and thinkly sliced two medium-sized onions.

Once the bacon was done I removed it with a slotted spoon and put it off to the side. I heated up the fat until it was almost smoking and browned the meat in the fat, 5 or 6 pieces at a time so as to allow the meat to brown well as opposed to steaming. This took for-ever. Plus the fat was sputtering everywhere and I had to use tongs to turn the meat so I could stay as far away as possible. Still I ended up with spots on my shirt...luckily it was my old WCU tee that's got holes in it and not something I cared about! Anyway, the meat was placed off to the side with the bacon.

The recipe calls for the stew to be cooked in a casserole in the oven, but I don't have an oven-proof casserole so I intended to cook it all in the Crock Pot. Ordinarily the next step would be performed right in the casserole but I used a Pyrex baking dish instead. Toss the meat with 2 tbs of flour and some salt and pepper and place in a preheated 450 degree oven for 4 minutes, then toss it again and put in for another 4. This browns the flour and makes a crust on the meat - not to mention making it smell heavenly! I should have made sure the meat juices didn't end up in the pan but I wasn't thinking. The flour got pasty in all the juices. When it was all done I emptied the meat into the crock and deglazed the pan with some of the beef stock over a burner to scrape up the bits of flour that had hardened on the pan.

While the meat was in the oven I browned the veggies in the put that the meat had browned in.

After the meat went into the crock, the veggies went on top.

Over all of this I poured 3 cups of red wine, the remaining beef stock that I didn't use to deglaze (starting with 2 cups), a tbs of tomato paste, 2 pressed garlic cloves, and some dried thyme. And it sat and sat in that crock for 4 hours.

In the meantime, I peeled some small onions (I wanted to get really small ones but couldn't find any) and browned them lightly in a tbs of butter and olive oil. Once they were browned I poured a little more than a cup of beef stock in the pan along with thyme, parsley, salt and pepper and let them braise for 40 minutes. The liquid didn't evaporate or anything, so I added it to the stew.

Then I sliced up and dried half a pound of mushrooms, and sauteed them in butter and olive oil. Another thing I learned was how to saute mushrooms. I've been doing it forever but I haven't been doing it correctly! As it turns out, the mushrooms shouldn't release their liquid when they're sauteeing. They should be done in small batches, much like the meat, in order to prevent steaming. The fat gets absorbed and then comes back out a bit, but the liquid shouldn't come out as they brown. It was very interesting to taste the difference in them - and I eat a lot of mushrooms so I could tell!

Once the stew was finished I veeeery carefully took the crock out and poured it out into a strainer which I placed over a big bowl. I'm kinda clumsy but it worked out ok. The meat and veggies went back into the crock on warm (I was supposed to wipe it out but forgot!) and the sauce went into a big pan in order to reduce. I was careful to skim off as much fat as possible as I went along - and there was a lot. But it wasn't reducing the way I wanted it to. It was taking forever, in fact, and we had already waited forever to eat. The noodles were done and buttered and ready to go as well. So I mixed some stock and cornstarch and poured that in. It worked, thankfully, because we were starved and it smelled so good! I poured the sauce back over the meat and veggies and served it up along with the onions and mushrooms I'd prepared earlier.

It was delicious! But I like lots of things, so Rob's opinion was the one I was counting on. His first comment was that it looked "decadent", since the gravy was so rich and dark, and the meat had turned so dark from the wine. As he ate he said that it was a more "refined" and "bold" taste than the usual beef stew. He loved it, and so did I. So it was well worth the effort, and I plan to make it again...and again...and again! Regular beef stew just can't measure up to this, and I already made a pretty good stew in the first place. Bravo, Julia! And bravo, me! ;-)



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