julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

Don’t Eat the Floss

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“This was caveman stew, by which I mean that the taste of it seemed to tug at deep primitive urges, and it made me grunt.  Hunks of bacon, hunks of beef, rich thick broth. Boo-yah!” – Julie Powell

 

Dolmas

When I was in high school, I once had to give a partner presentation on Greece. So my partner Jason and I decided we would think outside the box and make dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables) to accompany our presentation, because if there’s one thing high school kids like, it’s food. Not having much experience in the kitchen, the cooking process took waaaay longer than it should have. Jason’s family was kind enough to let us use their kitchen, and we worked long into the night. Somewhere around 1:00 in the morning, we were exhausted, and the last step of the recipe called for us to use string to tie these grape leaves closed. We didn’t have any string (see, even then I had a problem reading a recipe all the way through to the end before getting started)…but we did have green dental floss. It worked great, and the green blended right in with the leaves. We covered the platter and put it in the fridge and called it a night. When we served our dolmas the next day, the class was really impressed. They turned out great! Only, I may or may not have forgotten to warn everyone about the floss, and to this day I may or may not owe someone an apology (Sorry, Dusty!). But for what it’s worth, we got an A. Dental floss and all.

So last night, I made the super easy recipe for Daube de Boeuf (casserole of beef with wine and vegetables). The last time I made a beef stew, I bought pre-packaged stew meat from the store, and I was disappointed in the quality. So this time, I bought a nice sirloin and cut it into cubes myself. As I sliced through the meat, I noticed something odd…there was butcher’s twine holding it all together, hidden among the folds of the meat! All I could think about were those dolmas, and poor Dusty Hagan who digested a string of green dental floss. Thank goodness I didn’t make that mistake with butcher’s twine – yikes!

Marinade

After cutting the meat, I soaked it in a marinade of white wine, olive oil and seasonings, as well as sliced carrot and onion. I covered the bowl and waited a few hours, and focused my attention to the prep work for the rest of the recipe. I sliced mushrooms and peeled/juiced/chopped tomatoes, and also boiled some small pieces of bacon. When the meat was finished marinating, I removed it from the bowl and set it aside. I preheated the oven to 325 degrees, then lined the bottom of an oven-safe pot with a few strips of the bacon, then a layer of the marinade veggies, mushrooms and tomatoes. I rolled each piece of beef in flour and set them in a single layer over the vegetables and topped them with a few more strips of bacon. I repeated all of these layers one more time, finishing with a layer of vegetables and bacon.

Headed for the oven...

I poured the marinade wine into the pot, then added beef stock until the liquid almost covered the contents of the pot. I brought the whole thing to a simmer on the stove, then covered the pot and put it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. And that was it! After just three steps, this dish pretty much cooks itself, so I had the rest of the night to do other things – like clean the kitchen, run a load of laundry, spend a few minutes on the elliptical machine to try to combat some of the side effects of all this French cuisine…you know, nice leisurely time to myself (ha). Somewhere around the 90 minute mark, I noticed a delicious smell coming from the kitchen. The wine in the pot was really starting to cook and smelled incredible. I took a look at the pot to be sure all was well, and it looked delicious. I spent the next hour playing with the cats and watching some Food Network, and finally, the timer went off. Dinner was ready.

Beef Casserole

All I had to do was scoop some of the casserole into a couple of bowls and serve up a couple of pieces of toast (sadly our French bread loaf was a little moldy) – this whole thing couldn’t have been easier. And how did it taste, you ask? It. was. awesome. More like a stew than a casserole, the meat was super tender and had great flavor from the marinade. The vegetables gave a nice texture to the broth, and with a little extra salt and pepper, the meal was perfect. We have plenty of leftovers which will last us through the weekend, so that’s an added bonus. I liked everything about this meal – the easy prep work, the no-fuss cooking process, quick clean-up and a tasty dinner! This would be especially good on a cold winter night…but we don’t get those in Texas, so last night will have to do.

Happy Friday!

– Jessica

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