Monday, May 24, 2010

Cuisine Française

My sister gave me Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my birthday, and since April I have been trying to find the time to try out a recipe. Finally, I had a block of several hours to dedicate to the kitchen, and for Sunday dinner I made Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon and Pommes De Terre Sautées.

Neither recipe is exactly difficult, but there are many steps, and it is time consuming. My Boeuf Bourguignon was not as tasty as I have had in a restaurant, but it's the best version I've made so far. Even the sauce was a rich brown color. The Pommes De Terre Sautées were tasty, and they are similar to Alice Water's Braised Fingerling Potato Coins (or maybe the potato coins are similar to Pommes De Terre Sautées).

There were a couple of moments where I had to refer to the internet, or just make some guesses and/or adjustments on what Julia meant in her recipe:
  • I used a dutch oven rather than a 9 to 10-inch casserole dish.
  • After browning the sliced carrots and onions, it was not clear what to do with them. I decided to remove them from the dutch oven, and returned the beef and bacon to the dutch oven. This is when you sprinkle flour on the beef and bacon and put it in the oven for 4 minutes at a time (8 total). I added the vegetables back in when I added the wine, beef stock, etc.
  • I used Chianti rather than trying to find the other wines Julia suggested.

Here are Julia's recipes:

Boeuf Bourguignon

6 oz. chunk of bacon (ask your butcher and make sure it has rind on it)
1 Tb olive oil or cooking oil
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tb flour
3 cups of full-bodied, young red wine, or a Chianti
2-3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
A blanched bacon rind
18 to 24 small white onions brown-braised in stock (ingredients and directions follow)
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sautéed in butter (ingredients and directions follow)
Parsley sprigs

18 to 24 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter
1 1/2 Tb butter
1 1/2 Tb oil
1/2 cup brown beef stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine, or water
Salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs (or 2 tsp dried parsley), 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme tied in cheese cloth

2 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
Optional: 1 to 2 Tb minced shallots or green onions, salt and pepper

9 to 10-inch ovenproof casserole dish 3 inches deep
A slotted spoon
A 9 to 10-inch enameled skillet

Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil (1 TB) over moderate (medium) heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté beef, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add the beef to the bacon. Do not drain oil/fat.

Brown the sliced carrots and onions in the oil/fat. Pour out the oil/fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole, uncovered, in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the mat and return to oven for 4 more minutes. This browns the flour and covers the meat in a light crust. Remove the casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done with a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim the fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Season to taste. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. The recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. They will not brown uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herb bouquet.

Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté, the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes, the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Optional: Toss the shallots and green onions with the mushrooms. Sauté over moderate heat for 2 minutes.

Pommes de Terre Sautées

2 lbs boiling, fingerling or new potatoes
4 to 5 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 to 3 Tb minced parsley, chives or fresh tarragon, or a mixture of fresh green herbs
Big pinch of pepper

If you have fingerling potatoes, peel them neatly and sauté them whole. If you have boiling or new potatoes, peel them and cut them into elongated olive shapes, all the same size, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches long and 1 to 1 1/4 inches at their widest diameter. Do not wash, just dry them well in a towel.

Add enough butter and oil to a 10 or 11-inch skillet to film it by 1/16 inch and set over moderately high heat. When the butter foams and begins to subside, put the potatoes in the skillet. Leave them for 2 minutes, regulating heat so butter is always very hot, but not coloring. Then shake the skillet back and forth to roll the potatoes and to sear them on another side for 2 minutes. Continue for 4 to 5 minutes more until the potatoes are a pale golden color all over, indicating that a seared, protective film has formed over them, so that they do not stick to the pan.

Then sprinkle the potatoes with salt and roll them again in the skillet.

Lower heat, cover the skillet, and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes, shaking them every 3 to 4 minutes to prevent them from sticking to the skillet, and to insure even coloring.

The potatoes are done when they yield slightly to the pressure of your finger, or a knife pierces them easily; they should be nice, fairly even, golden grown color. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Off the heat, add the butter (2Tb) and herbs, sprinkle on the pepper, and roll the potatoes in the skillet so they glisten with herbs and butter.

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