Monday, September 23, 2013

The delicious world of Julia Child: Boeuf Borguignon

While in Washington, D.C. I had the opportunity to finally check out the Food exhibit at the National Museum of American History.

Who has two thumbs and loves her some food?  This girl!

Of course, the main attraction is Julia Child's kitchen.  It was donated by Julia and was painstakingly recreated piece by piece and tool by tool in the museum. Even her kitschy fridge magnets and dog-eared cookbooks were present and accounted for.

Wouldn't you just love to have the opportunity to sit at this table and eat something delicious?

Something that struck me the most, especially in this day and age of schfancy "gourmet" kitchens, was the relatively small size of the kitchen and how function seemed to be valued over form.  This kitchen, the setting for 3 of her cooking shows, was designed by her husband and everything was meticulously thought out and all tools were within easy reach.

Ogling the enviable collection of copper pots and pans that hung from the pegboard walls

Although I have faint memories of watching Julia Child cooking programs on PBS as a child (which I'm sure I thought was "boring" at the time because it wasn't cartoons), I had a much greater appreciation for this icon after reading her autobiography,  My Life in France.  I was impressed by her drive and determination combined with her passion to be a lifelong learner.  Also, I think it's so interesting that most of her successes didn't come until much later in her life--talk about perseverance!

Nice to meet you, Julia!  I think this might actually be how tall Julia was in real life, whoa!

Boeuf Bourguignon, or Beef Burgundy for those of us who don't speak French, has come to be one of Child's iconic recipes.  Her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, describes the dish as "certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."  And with that resounding recommendation, I sat out to attempt it's creation.

If you'd like a one-on-one tutorial with Julia herself, well, voila!

I used a version of the recipe from Simply Suppers, by Memphian, Jennifer Chandler.  This is one of my go-to cookbooks for easy and crowd-pleasing recipes.

Recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon


4 lb boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T olive oil
5 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup finely diced yellow onion (1 large onion)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots (about 5 small carrots)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) whole tomatoes with juice
1 bottle (750 ml) good red wine (preferably Pinot Noir or Burgundy)
2 cups chicken stock
2 T unsalted butter
2 cups button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole white pearl onions


  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
  • Pat beef dry with paper towels and generously season with salt and pepper.  In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the pot.  In two batches, so as not to overcrowd the pot, cook the meat until nicely browned on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch.  Transfer the meat to a plate.
  • Drain all but 1 T of fat from the pot.  Add the bacon and cook over medium hear until crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the onion, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, and garlic.  Cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, red wine, and chicken stock and stir to combine.  Return the beef to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and place in the oven.  Cook until the beef is fork tender, about 2 hours.  Remove from the oven and place on the stove over low heat to keep warm.  Discard the bay leaves and cover.
  • In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the mushrooms and saute until softened and golden, about 4 minutes.  Add the cooked mushrooms and frozen onions to the stew.  Over medium-high heat, bring the stew back to a boil and adjust the seasonings as needed.  Serve hot.  Serves 6.

I used pre-cut meat from the butcher, pre-sliced mushrooms, and peeled, frozen pearl onions--every little bit of saved time helps!

Browning meat in small batches (don't crowd the pan!) is time consuming, but totally worth it for all the baked burned delicious morsels of flavor it produces in the pot.  I added a batch of meat, left it for a couple minutes, chopped some onions, flipped sides of the meat, then chopped some carrots, etc. for added efficiency
Julia Child refers to searing meat and the resultant deglazing as the "treasure of cooking."  And I must agree after ogling these tasty bites!

Adding the veggies to the bacon and cooking until softened

After first adding the wine, I was convinced I'd be eating wine stew (grossss!) but after cooking for hours, the alcohol cooks off and you're left with the subtle flavor

Now it's time to let the oven do all the work--put 'er in and let 'er simmer for 2 hours.  Your entire house smell like pure deliciousness during this part

This recipe is time consuming which makes it fairly unreasonable for the average person trying to get dinner on the table in a timely fashion.  But you can make this ahead of time and reheat the stew on the stove.  It also freezes really well, so I'll be eating good for at least a month!

Mmmm, the finished product...yum!  Add some crusty, hot bread and a fresh green salad and you have a delicious meal.  I served the stew with spaetzle, a type of egg German pasta, but you can also serve alone, with rice, with egg noodles, or with boiled potatoes.  

And for a final dose of Julia, here's a musical mash-up, created in honor of what would have been her 100th birthday.  Bon Appetite, y'all!

What are some of your favorite Julia Child recipes?

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