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

A Beef Dish That’s Good for What Ales You

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“Having taken eight language lessons before leaving Washington, I could say, ‘Hello, how are you? My name is Child. How much does that cost? I want meat and potatoes. I am learning German.’ I used all of these phrases immediately when we ordered beer, meat, and potatoes. The waitress understood me perfectly and smiled nicely as she placed two enormous foaming steins in front of us. My, that beer tasted good.” – Julia Child 

Aren't they pretty?

My husband and I are meat-and-potatoes kind of people, so when I saw today’s recipe, I knew it was right up our alley…especially Ben’s: Carbonnades a la Flamande (beef and onions braised in beer). This recipe, Julia explained, was more along the lines of a Belgian braise, and the beer was a surprising change from the usual Madeira wine liquid, although not as surprising as actually seeing Julia Child drink a bottle of beer (which I have seen happen on her TV shows). I decided Champignons Sautes a la Crème (creamed mushrooms) and some basic mashed potatoes would go nicely with this – and I was right. This is one of those meals that’s really easy to put together, but it takes a long time to cook…which turned out to be kind of nice, because I got quite a bit of other little projects done in the meantime. So if your laundry is piling up or you’ve got some homework to tend to, or a couple of kids to bathe, this is a great meal – “Set it and forget it!” as Ron Popeil would say.

I started with the main course, because this baby takes a couple of hours to cook. (It’s sort of Julia’s answer to a crock pot recipe.) I preheat the oven to 325 and cut a beautiful hunk of chuck roast into 2” wide slices, about ¼” thick. I browned them a little in a buttered pan, then set them aside. In the same pan, I added about 3 cups of sliced onion and tossed them around until they were translucent and golden and beautiful. Yes, onions can be beautiful. You’ll see. I took them off the heat, added some salt and pepper and included a bit of mashed garlic (a garlic press is an amazing invention, no?).

Don't be alarmed by the raw parts. The meat just needs to be lightly browned - it's still got 2 hours to cook in the oven.

I laid half the browned beef slices in the bottom of a casserole dish and topped them with half the onions, then repeated this process again. A cup of boiling beef stock was poured in, as well as a couple cups of light beer (Ben was glad for the excuse to stock up on some Bud Light) until the meat was nearly covered. I tucked an herb bouquet in among the meat slices, sprinkled a little light brown sugar into the mix, and brought the dish to a simmer on the stove. I covered it with tin foil (I realized belatedly that I didn’t have an oven-proof lid for that particular dish…foil to the rescue!) and set it in the bottom third of my oven for two hours.

Then I went and fiddled around the house. I worked on a couple of craft projects, folded some laundry, cleaned up a bit (but didn’t actually do any real fiddling), all the while smelling the wonderful aroma wafting from the oven. Mmmm. Beer. I mean, beef.

Man, I love sauteed mushrooms.

About fifteen minutes before the meat was ready, I sliced a bunch of mushrooms and sautéed them in a pan with butter. When they were a golden brown, I added a teaspoon of flour and cooked them a little longer. Off heat, I blended in about a cup of whipping cream with a pinch of salt and pepper, and put the pan back on the stove and stirred it until it became nice and thick.

At the last minute, I whipped up some instant mashed potatoes, and pulled the meat out of the oven. I removed the herb bouquet and poured all the liquid from the dish into a saucepan, adding a mixture of cornstarch and wine vinegar to thicken things up a bit. And that was it! Dinner was ready.

Just out of the oven.

I used a spatula to serve some beef slices and onions onto my plate, then topped it with the sauce. I scooped some mushrooms and mashed potatoes on the side and sat down to eat. The beef was terrific. It was fork tender, but not mushy, and I could sense a hint of the beer flavor, which was nice and not overpowering. The onions and sauce not only added some great flavor as well, but gave a nice textural contrast to the hearty beef. This dish reminded me of a pot roast, which I always like.

The mushrooms were by far the best creamed vegetable I’ve made yet. I think I’ve finally mastered the art of creaming (huh?) and have learned that the longer I leave the cream on the stove, the thicker and heartier it gets. It was thick and sweet and a perfect combination with the tender mushrooms. I give this side dish two thumbs way up.

Deeeeelish!

I highly recommend these two recipes. This would be a great meal to make for a group dinner, because it can easily feed lots of people as it is, or can be easily modified to feed more or less. Guys will like the beer aspect (especially since you’ll have a little leftover in the can, and it would be a shame to pour it out…) and women will like the home-cookin’ pot roast aspect. Give it a try! You won’t be sorry.

Stay tuned for even more adventures in cooking!
– Jessica

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