Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As Promised

 Over a week after the event, I give you The Clarissa/Caitlin/Julia Project- Session One: Boeuf Bourguignon

But first, a few shots of the book itself, in all its colorful glory.

Julia's the tall one. Doesn't the moustache man look just too French?

 Yes. We have this page bookmarked. It's page 315. (I have photographic proof that's coming momentarily.)
Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere. Even me.

I told you I had photographic proof.


Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.


Burgundy. Yes. If you cook meat in this, you'll never want to return to regular methods again.

Technically speaking, we made the creme brulee before we made the bourguignon, but because we ate it *after* the bourguignon, I'll leave it for last.

Making bourguignon is a 6 hour long process. We started at about 1 in the afternoon. It's not really that it's hard to do- if you can read and follow directions, you can make it, but it is time consuming, because instead of skipping steps and doing things the fast (American!) way, you're taking time and doing things the slow (European!) way.
Firstly, we bought the list of ingredients. Beouf Bourguignon consists of:
6 ounce chunk of bacon (the real stuff) (we got this HUMONGOUS package, so we have some left over for next time. We don't usually eat pork, but Mom made an exception for this dish.)
Olive oil (throughout the whole recipe)
3 lbs. lean stewing beef
carrots (Julia calls for one, but unless you have an incredibly large carrot, you'll probably use about 3, maybe 4. Depending on how carrot-y you want the dish to be.)
1 sliced onion (not too big, because you'll be putting in lots of pearl onions later, but not too small)
salt and pepper  for seasoning (she gives measurements, but really, who cares....)
2 tb. of flour (I think we may have used a slight tad more. :-) )
3 cups of wine (Burgundy, Bordeaux- so long as it's red.)
2-3 cups of brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon (we used stock)
1 tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
a crumbled bay leaf
18-24 pearl onions
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms

First comes the oven- preheat it to 450 F.
Next comes the bacon- she says remove the rind... I think we removed what we could, or else there wasn't much anyways. I don't really remember, because I was busy reading the recipe and snapping pictures while Mom dealt with the bacon. Regardless- you cut the bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long) and simmer it (with the rind) in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry. Then saute the bacon in over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove the bacon to a side dish.





Now comes the beef- dry it with paper towels- no seriously. If you don't, it won't brown correctly. (I know- who knew?) Saute it, a few pieces at a time (sort of like not crowding the mushrooms- don't crowd the beef too much, either.) in the hot oil and bacon fat (that's right- don't throw out the fat from the bacon. Use the same dirty pan.) After the beef is nicely browned on all sides, take it up and put it with the bacon, set aside.


In the same skillet (Correct- you just keep adding some oil to the same bacon fat. It. smells. so. good. by this time.) pop in your already sliced carrots and your already slice medium onion. After they're nice and brown and completely delicious smelling, put them aside, and pour out the fat/oil.

And yes, by this time, we were salivating. 

Apparently, Julia is doing all of this sauteing in her casserole dish. We don't have a true casserole dish, so we used something that I always thought was a casserole dish (who knew?). Anyways, we couldn't do that because while Corningware is oven-safe, it's not stove-top safe. Moving on...
Now, you put your beef and bacon all together in your (faux)casserole dish, and toss with your salt and pepper. Next comes the flour, which you sprinkle all over the meat. Toss the meat again, so that it's coated in flour (it might actually take more than one flour dosing. It did for us.) Put the (faux)casserole dish in the oven for 4 minutes, uncovered. Take it out and toss it before putting it back in the oven for another 4 minutes. That actually took a little more than 8 minutes for us, because there's supposed to be a sort of crust over the meat from the flour. So, just keep popping and tossing until you have that crust.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees (we sort of forgot about that at first....)
Here's the fun part- splishing and splashing wine into the beef/bacon. 3 cups of it. Just be sure to *not* splash yourself with any... or get any on the counter top.... or really, on anything, because it will stain it purple.


You also put in the stock(or bouillon) at this point, until the beef is barely covered in liquid. Put in the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind (if you ever actually removed it in the first place.) Julia never actually says when to put the already cooked carrots and onions in the (faux) casserole dish with the meat. We popped them in here. You're supposed to bring all of it to a simmer on the top of the stove before putting it in the oven for 2 1/2-3 hours, but we couldn't do that (remember, because Corningware is oven-safe, not *fire*-safe.) so we just put the lid on it, and slid it in the oven for 3 hours.

Next came the tough part. I usually don't have a problem multi-tasking. I have two little sisters, I babysit three days a week, and just walking around while I breathe is basic multitasking. But in the kitchen, seeing as how I'm not exactly the most confident of chefs, I like to have time and read and re-read the directions before going about something. And preferably, I like to be concentrating on only one thing at a time. True, the casserole only needed to be checked on once or twice (or maybe... a few times, just to crack the oven door and sniff it again...) and the rolls really *didn't* need much attention, other than to grease the pans and let them rise (which they never did. That was the one dud of the whole evening, but we really didn't mind much.)
But the experienced cook in the house had to go run a few necessary errands, so I was alone in the kitchen for 3 hours. All I had to do was brown, then braise, the pearl onions, and saute the mushrooms. Then I'd start the water for the noodles to serve the bourguignon over. No problem. And there really wasn't any problem- I just was slightly nervous about braising onions without burning them to a crisp.
Ever work with pearl onions? They're a bother to peel. It's basically impossible. So you have to put them in a pot of boiling water for three minutes, then rinse them in cold water. Even then, they're not so easy to peel, but it's at least possible. So after I got the peels off the cantankerous things (and I dried them as well as I was able... I still had to sort of toss them in the skillet from across the kitchen, for fear of being burned by hot oil) I began browning them. Easy. Put some butter (about 1 1/2 tbs) and 1 1/2 tbs of oil in a pan, let it get hot, and brown them. Just don't expect them to brown evenly, because it's not possible. After browning them, you braise them, which is merely putting in half a cup (in our case, a little more than half a cup) of brown stock (you can also use wine, but we didn't...) a wee bit of salt and pepper, and a medium herb bouquet.
What is an herb bouquet? In a cheesecloth (or a coffee filter...) put 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 a bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp of thyme. Tie it tight, and pop it in the saucepan. After putting all these things in, you cover the onions, and let them sit and simmer slowly for 40-50 minutes, or until the liquid is all simmered away.


While the onions were braising, I washed and quartered the mushrooms. After the onions were through, I rinsed out the pan, and sauteed the mushrooms. Without crowding them. I heated up a few tbs of butter, a couple tbs of oil, and put in two small handfuls of mushrooms at a time. And do you know what I did? I read the directions as I was stirring those mushrooms around, and saw that Julia says the best way to get them evenly brown and coated is to toss them. In my heart of hearts I wanted to toss those mushrooms, but my very realistic fear of having them come back and smack me in the face held me back. Until the 3rd batch.... That's right. I tossed the mushrooms. And I didn't. even. drop. one. Oh yeah!


Then Mom came home, and we took out the bourguignon, and separated all the meat/vegetables from the juice (because Julia says to- she wants you to skim the fat off while you heat it up in a sauce pan. We tried, but it's not so easy to skim liquid fat.) When you're done, your juice should be thick enough to thinly coat a spoon. Then you pour it back over the meat/vegetables. We added the mushrooms and onions, and gently tossed it, to coat everything in the juice, and have it all mixed up.
By this time our rolls, noodles, and peas were done. So we fixed the plates (buttered the noodles, poured the bourguignon over it, buttered the peas, and buttered the rolls. Butter.)



And we sat down to eat THIS:


It was worth every bit of the 6 hours it took to prepare it. There aren't really words for how good it was. Just know- YUM YUM YUM YUM.

That's all for now- this post is long enough. I'll post about Creme Brulee tomorrow.

Good evening, void.

Bon appetite.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't crowd the mushrooms

Today......

Today we made Boeuf Bourguignon, served over buttered noodles, with a side of buttered peas, and a roll (buttered. Because you can never have too much butter.) Dessert was, to my Dad's surprise and enjoyment, creme brulee. It wasn't quite like Carrabba's, but it was the very first time we've ever attempted it.

Briefly: making Boeuf Bourguignon is a six hour process. Truly. Creme Brulee was the easy part, definitely. Although none of it is actually difficult. It just takes a long time (40 minutes just to braise the pearl onions, and another 30 to brown the mushrooms which, by the way, I did not crowd, and which turned out perfectly browned.) But it was absolutely worth it. It was delicious and worth the three months I've waited to make/eat it.

That said, I'm signing off. I took plenty of pictures, and I have lots to say about our experience (such as: we need a kitchen torch, and a real casserole dish), but I am bone-tired. Standing on your feet in the kitchen for 6 hours (because you really are doing something every minute, unless you're insanely fast, or you crowd the mushrooms, and brown them all at once) is an exhausting task. So, I'm going to shower- in my own house, miracle of miracles, because Daddy fixed the septic system- and go to bed. I'm not passing 'GO', or collecting any money. I'm just going to bed, as soon as I get up the energy to 1) turn off ol' George singing about his ex's in Texas (not my song choice- I'm just too tired to actually turn it off right now.) and 2) get off my duff to go shower.

Tomorrow's another day, after all, and will have plenty of time for me to do the simple yet time-consuming task of uploading photos.

So goodnight, dear void. I'll see you tomorrow.

Bon appetit.