“I’m making ze boeuf,” I announced Sunday afternoon, in my best Pepé Le Pew accent.
“Julia’s boeuf?!?” my dear wife asked excitedly.
“Oui!” I then marched off to the kitchen with a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking under my arm to create my take on her famous boeuf bourguignon.
6 slices bacon, thick cut
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 lbs lean stewing beef (rump roast in this case), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flour (I used Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix)
3 cups red wine (I used a full-bodied Big House Red)
2 -3 cups beef stock (Pacific Natural)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms, sautéed in butter
1 cup fresh peas, shelled
6-8 new potatoes, peeled & quartered
Pre-heat your oven to 450°F.
On the stove top, heat a 9 to 10 inch flame-proof casserole (I christened my new All Clad 8-quart wide stockpot) over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until it is just crisp. Remove the bacon and reserve for later. Add the olive oil to the bacon fat and increase the heat to medium-high.
Dry off the pieces of beef (I dabbed them with a paper towel) and sauté them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until they are nicely browned on all sides. As they are done, move them off to a side plate.
When all the boeuf is browned, add the onion and the carrot and sauté until softened. While the veggies are cooking, slice the bacon strips into lardons (thick matchsticks). Pour off any excess fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour. Toss to coast evenly.
Put the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes. Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for another 4 minutes.
Reduce the oven heat to 325°F and move the casserole to the stove top. Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is just barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.
Bring the uncovered dish to a simmer on stove top. Cover and move to the oven. Simmer for 2 hours, checking to see if the meat is tender. Continue cooking until you can easily pierce the meat with a fork.
When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a colander set over a saucepan. Reserve the sauce. Wash out the casserole and return the beef, bacon, and veggies to it.
Add the potatoes and sautéed mushrooms to the casserole.
Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or two, skimming off any additional fat which rises to the surface. It should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. If not, bring to a boil and reduce to the desired consistency. You should end up with 2 1/2 to 3 cups of sauce.
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
Cover the casserole and simmer over medium heat until the potatoes start to soften (about 10 minutes). Add the peas, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve steaming in hearty bowls.
I don’t even have words to describe how wonderful this was – rich, meaty, succulent, and complex. The veggies all held their shape and flavor. You could taste each individual ingredient and the many-layered sauce at the same time. Remarkable.