Sunday, September 26, 2010

"it was all a dream"

not just a biggie reference. BOEUF BOURGUIGNON.
aka.. beef burgundy
aka..the stew that haunted my dreams.

this is not a joke! one night this past week i dreamt i was making this stew..even refusing to turn the fan on because i was afraid it would cool it down too much. i imagined carrots and onions and perfectly browned chunks of chuck roast. throughout the night i'd wake up sporadically to thoughts of braising, my oven, and  visions of serving the stew over a starch of choice. when i woke up it was as if i had already rehearsed the recipe... cooking this dish felt familiar, as if the night before was the REM mise en place.

i had never even tasted it before! perhaps it was so fixated in my mind because it was basically the third most important character in julie and julia (after of course, julie...and...julia....) which by the way, was not that great of a movie but i still loved it a great deal simply because of the fact that it was about food blogging! and julia child!!!

you'll find tons of versions of this recipe online, but especially since i've been working my way through mastering the art of french cooking vol. 1, why would i use any other than that of julia child's? ze original, the best....

here is a link to an online version of this recipe. (as much as i hate to link to oprah, the layout of the webpage is clean and the recipe clear..and that is what is most important, after all)

chuck roast all ready to be dressed up!
don't skip drying the beef on paper towels! may seem counter-intuitive if you want to end up with a tender final product, however in the case of braising, sealing internal moisture is priority one. to do this you need to form a good crust on the meat so it can finish cooking slowly in simmering liquid. the reason damp meat doesn't brown is because when it hits the hot oiled pan, a pocket of steam forms between the flesh and the oil.. you end up with something slightly steamed and lose your chance to develop browning.

i didn't use bacon grease or any sorts of bacon... i am not too keen on buying bacon which i don't even like, to never use again. so anyways.

adding the wine
ugh at first, it seemed like too much wine. seriously with equal parts wine and broth, it left me wondering "where's the tomato?!" but sure thing i soon learned that you can have a delicious sauce that is not tomato based, a big deal for the girl who eats whole tomatoes like apples..

i added more veggies than called for in the original... i mean come on julia, ONE carrot for 3 pounds of fatty beef?! have you no fear of cardiovascular consequences? ha, just joking. but really, i do love my veggies so why not.

a note about the wine... i used cabernet sauvignon. now's probably the time to admit to you, i know nothing about wine. this is just the red wine i've been using for cooking. julia child however, has devoted a chapter of her book to wine selection, storage, varieties, serving.... there is so much to learn. and at this point in my life, too much. i mean.. i think wine is ok. i love it for cooking but it makes me sleepy and i've not a clue how to pick a decent wine. i'm sure i'll acquire the hobby soon enough, a skill i'll definitely want to become well versed in all in good time. 

goodies ready to be stirred in
speaking of tomatoes, the recipe called for tomato paste. now i don't know why but i hate tomato paste. it's blech. not only because it's canned (because i love ketchup bbq sauce stewed tomatoes and other processed tomato goodness!) but nothing about it seems to resemble the fruit from which it was born. instead i chopped up a tomato, and added 1 tb or so of tomato ketchup :) because americans love ketchup and i am indeed an american.

also i am korean, which of course means i love garlic. i doubled the garlic called for. was tempted to use more, but i resisted the urge! (i'd say my biggest vice is overuse of garlic, guilty as charged)

before putting it in the oven for a 3 hour long simmer bath, the casserole dish seemed quite bad. it reeked of cheap wine, had half-cooked chunks of beef, mashed cloves of garlic bobbing along the top.. ew. i wondered what i had gotten myself into. i was a braising virgin til this point i suppose, because wow what a difference a few hours of a gentle simmer can do. AMAZING

after the meat was fork tender i pulled it out.. it smelled so great. the whole place smelled great, nevermind the fact that it was so hot after having the oven on for several hours. anyhow, i thought the sauce was still a bit thin and wine-y tasting, so i boiled the sauce down for a few minutes to let it thicken before pouring it back over the meat and vegetables.
with parsley, served over steamed rice
the meat was wonderfully soft and easily fell apart. the carrots were creamy and delicious, and even though i omitted the braised onions and mushrooms the flavours really came together. i was quite impressed and pleasantly surprised. they say this dish was traditionally a peasant dish in France... for those who could only afford the cheapest, worst, and toughest cuts of meat. the only way to make these cuts palatable was to tenderize them with alcohol, and wow what a long way this simple idea has evolved. 

finally i got to try my hand a preparing a legendary dish! and what a great time i had with it. now i've enough stew for two weeks :P