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

Expensive Taste

  

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“Fat gives things flavor.” – Julia Child

In flipping through MTAOFC while planning my meals for the week, I was in the mood to try a beef dish that used something other than a typical steak. I came across a chapter of beef sautés, and decided to give one a try. The first recipe in the chapter was Saute de Boeuf a la Parisienne (beef sauté with cream and mushroom sauce) which sounded yummy, so I made a list of the necessary ingredients and looked up recommended side dishes. Julia suggests serving this with green beans and rice, both of which seemed a little boring. Wanting to try something new, I found Julia’s Haricots Verts a la Provencale (green beans with tomatoes, garlic and herbs), which I hadn’t tried yet. And while we had some rice I could use, a friend had recently gifted us with a bag of Spaetzle (German noodles) we’d been curious to try, so I decided to use that instead of rice. Why not? 

I headed to the store to pick up all the necessary ingredients for this dinner, and it’s here I must tell you that when taking on a cooking challenge, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all and sort of lose yourself in the moment…especially when it comes to shopping for the ingredients. Which is how I found myself standing at the meat counter, moments away from purchasing a $25 cut of beef for last night’s dinner. Luckily, just as the butcher reached for his “recommended” cut for my recipe, I glanced down and saw that hefty price tag and slammed on the brakes. After some reconsideration, we came to a compromise – the recipe calls for a filet that will ultimately be cubed, so I opted for stew meat which, essentially, was cut from the filet and only cost me $5.99. Much more reasonable than $25. I mean, Julia’s recipes are pretty good and all, but for $25 I want someone to serve me and clean the dishes! Moral of the story: ‘Lert up when it comes to buying meat. There’s usually a more wallet-friendly option available. 

Getting ready for the green beans

With all of the ingredients in hand, I was ready to give this meal a try. Between the three dishes, the green beans would take the longest to cook, so I started with them. I cooked a cup of thinly sliced onions in a bit of olive oil until they were translucent (but not brown). Meanwhile, I prepared a couple of PSJ tomatoes and added them to the pan as well. I also included a mashed clove of garlic, juice from the tomatoes, a small herb bouquet in cheesecloth with a pinch of salt and pepper, and I left the pan to simmer for a half hour. 

While the vegetables were cooking, I worked on the green beans, blanching them and draining them just before they became tender. I checked on the onions and tomatoes and noticed their liquid was evaporating a little too quickly, so I added a bit more water and waited for them to finish simmering. I removed the herb bouquet and tossed in the green beans for another ten minutes. 

Cream sauce with mushrooms

At this point, I filled a pot with water and dumped in the Spaetzle to boil for 15 minutes (drain before serving). I also fired up the front burner on the stove for the beef, sautéing sliced mushrooms in butter and oil with a tablespoon of minced shallots. When they were done, I scraped them into a bowl and turned my attention to the meat. I patted the cubed pieces dry, then seared them in butter and oil in the mushroom pan. Once they were brown on all sides, I put them on a plate so I could work on the cream sauce. I poured Madeira and beef stock into the pan and let it cook until it had reduced to about 1/3 cup, then beat in cream and cornstarch. The sauce really began to thicken at that point, and after it had simmered a minute, I added the mushrooms. Finally, I tossed in the beef, basting it with the creamy sauce – I was surprised to see that this dish was more like a stew, and it was really starting to shape up. 

Easy and delicious...and affordable!

Everything finished at about the same time – the green beans were looking terrific, the beef sauté was finished, and the Spaetzle was done (I think…I wasn’t really sure what “done” Spaetzle looked like). I scooped a spoonful of the noodles onto my plate, then ladled the meat and sauce over them and added a side of green beans. Everything smelled terrific and I couldn’t wait to dig in. 

I tried the Spaetzle first – it really did taste just like thick spaghetti. It worked great as a means to soak up the extra cream sauce, and also tasted delicious with bites of the tomatoes from the green beans, like an Italian pasta. 

Spaetzle

The green beans were excellent. Not only were they cooked just right – nice and tender – but the addition of the tomato gave it a nice flair, reminding me of the flavor of pasta sauce (but nowhere near the consistency). It never would have occurred to me to combine cooked tomatoes with green beans, but the two flavors worked well together. 

The beef was outstanding. The meat was a little tough (I wound up having to reheat it on the stove a little too long before Ben got home), but the flavor was great. The cream sauce was hearty and rich, and the dish reminded me of the texture and consistency of beef tips, but with better flavor. We both went back for seconds. 

This might be my favorite sauce in a dish so far. I’m glad to know there are a few leftovers for tonight, and even more excited that we have two more of these beef saute recipes to look forward to before all is said and done. 

Looking for a hearty yet easy beef dish? I suggest you give this one a try. Not only was it delicious and affordable, but it only took about 20 minutes from start to finish. Heck, why not make it tonight? Trust me when I say you won’t be sorry. 

Bon appetit!
– Jessica

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