Monday, March 31, 2014

Attempting to Hang With Auguste and Julia

I'm all over these days on this blog, yeah?  No real pattern or theme, other than "eclectic".  Or maybe "eccentric"?  I do what I feel doing, then I write about it.  You'll all let me know if it's not working for you, okay?

This week, I feel like working with red meat.  And I feel like working with it in a sort of cobbled French style.  And it's fitting, because as of today's statistical reading, there are 11 French readers.  Or 11 French robots.  Or 11 French search engines.  Or 11 American spam sites posing as French readers.  But, let us remain un optimiste, eh?

Today's practice was a Beef Bourguignon.  Or, Beef Burgundy.  This dish originated in the Burgundy region in France, and, way back in the day, was a dish prepared by peasants who couldn't always get the best, tenderest cuts of meat (the damned aristocracy...off with their heads!).  And those peasants knew then what we know now...lean and tough cuts of beef are perfect for stewing in liquid for long periods of time.  And since water did not meet the stringent sanitary standards that it does not, the braising liquid of choice?  Wine.  Red wine.

I can totally get behind that.

So, we have this rustic, but resourceful, peasant dish.  And along comes this esteemed French chef named Auguste Escoffier.  And he takes it, tweaks it a little, and publishes the recipe for it.  And now...non-Burgundy residents can make it!  Many decades later, an American named Julia Child takes Auguste's recipe and updates it...all of a sudden, everyone else (namely, Americans) can make it!

And then, in 2014...Yours Truly takes Beef Bourguignon and tries to hybridize it.  She ends up fumbling it a bit.   But, my mistakes are your treasure, so...read on.

Beef Bourguignon is a multi-layered dish.  It's not a fixitandforgetit dish.  I started off with bacon, and once the fat was rendered, I browned my three pounds of stew meat in it.  Then, I used some of the red wine to deglaze the pan (making yummy fond) before throwing in my onions for a quick sauté.  At this point, I added back in the rest of the red wine, three cups of beef broth. 

At this point, I wish I'd done a cornstarch slurry for some thickening, but I didn't.  So, lesson learned for next time.

I added back in the beef and bacon, along with salt, pepper, thyme, and two bay leaves.  Then, I poured it all into my crockpot and put it into my fridge.  This morning, I pulled the pot out, put it in its cozy little warming unit, set the timer for nine hours, and then, I walked away.  Until early afternoon when I softened up one pound of mushrooms and added it to the slow simmering mixture. 

Just before service, because I had so much broth, I removed some and used it for cooking the egg noodles.  And that is what I served the Bourguignon over, along with some minced parsley.


I won't lie, it's a bit of work.  Lots of steps.  I mean, yeah, I suppose I could have thrown everything into a crockpot...but then it would be a beef stew, wouldn't it?  Which...really...is what Beef Bourguignon is.  But "Beef Stew" doesn't sound as elegantly French, now does it?  And if you want to play in the sandbox with Auguste and Julia, you gotta speak the language.  

N'est-ce pas?

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