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

I’m Sensing a Theme…


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“So my husband and I were trying to decide, if I were a celebrity chef, what my trademark saying, my ‘Bam!’, should be, and we decided that whenever I threw in another stick of butter, I’d say, ‘What could happen?’  This catchphrase is perfect, because it works in so many situations.  Thus, ‘The Julie/Julia Project on the Upper West Side – What Could Happen?’” – Julie Powell

After tackling Julia’s veal stew the other night, I was looking forward to going back to more familiar ingredients…like beef. In fact, I think I can easily say that Julia’s beef recipes are my favorite – something about the way the meat turns out just right, and is usually enhanced by some sort of delicious sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

I bookmarked the recipe for Saute de Boeuf a la Bourguignonne (beef saute with red wine, mushrooms, bacon, and onions) – which is not to be confused with the now-famous-thanks-to-the-Julie & Julia-movie Boeuf Bourguignon. That recipe, my friends, we’re saving for a special occasion. (I don’t know what, exactly, but surely something special has to come along. Right? Right! And don’t call me Shirley.)

Browned beef seasoned with salt and pepper.

What I didn’t realize until after I had already cut my beef filets into cubes, sliced my bacon and measured out my beef stock and red wine, was that this recipe looked very similar to… what I mean to say is, it seemed an awful lot like… oh, heck, this is basically just a beef stew. Which wouldn’t have made me bat an eye, except for the fact that we just had veal stew the night before. Ah, well. C’est la vie!

My favorite part about this recipe was the fact that it took less than an hour to make – and that included prepping the meat! I started by trimming the fat off my filets (boy, do cows have it easy…it takes me months on the elliptical machine to get those kinds of results), then cut the meat into 2″x1″ cubes and browned it in a mixture of butter and oil in a deep pan. I removed the beef to a side bowl and tossed my sliced bacon pieces (which had been blanched ahead of time) into the pan and lightly browned them as well. **Can I just take a moment to reiterate: this recipe uses beef AND bacon!! BEEF AND BACON!! There’s no way this can go wrong.** I poured the fat out of the pan and then added red wine, beef stock, mashed garlic, thyme and a bit of tomato paste to the dish, letting it boil down while I braised some pearl onions and sauteed some sliced mushrooms in two separate pans.

This will become a tasty sauce for the saute...

At this point, you should toss in a paste of butter and flour (called beurre manie), which will magically begin to thicken the sauce for the beef…unless, of course, you become over-confident and are too busy congratulating yourself for staying a step ahead of the recipe in your food prep and accidentally overlook this minor (read: really important) step. *ahem* If that’s the case, just add it in when you remember – the world won’t come to an end. Not that I would know from first-hand experience, or anything…

Toss the mushrooms and onions into the pan – they want to join the party, and who can blame them? Fun things are happening – at this point, the music is blaring, the joint is jumpin’ and the gang is just waiting for the meat to show up. Add some salt and pepper to the beef in the bowl and add it to the pan – the guest of honor has finally arrived. Here, Julia says to arrange all of these ingredients in a separate fire-proof casserole dish – I don’t see the point, frankly, as I’m not trying to impress anyone. *Side Story* I had a friend in college who, when getting ready for a party, would always hide all the packaging from the food and drinks before guests arrived – she said it was like leaving your dirty underwear out for the guests to see. The only person coming to this party was my husband, and after five years of marriage I’m sorry to say he’s already seen my dirty underwear…and I’m not dirtying another dish to save face at this stage in the game. All of that to say, leave the food in the original pan…it’s fine, really.

This is smelling terrific...look at those pretty onions, and those tender mushrooms floating around in there!

I let this medley simmer on the stove for a bit while Ben whipped up some mashed potatoes. (What can I say, we’re Irish…meat and potatoes go together like peas and carrots. Wait…huh?) Just before we were ready to eat, I took the pan off the heat and dropped in some butter. I mixed it around until it dissolved into the sauce, thickening things just a little more. Perfection!

One bite of this dish and the verdict was in – the winner of this week’s Stew Off was the Saute de Boeuf! (Hey, no fair! Beef saute isn’t even a stew!) Eh, close enough. The meat was amazing – browned perfectly on the outside but still somewhat medium rare on the inside, yet not chewy or tough like undercooked meat can sometimes be. The sauce was outstanding, thick and hearty with the sweet pearl onions and tender sauteed mushrooms adding some terrific flavors. The side of mashed potatoes was a great idea, because it gave me something to sop up the rest of my sauce with – I was kicking myself for not having made some crusty bread to go along with this meal.

You'll want to savor each bite of this delicious meal - and then go back for seconds!

We couldn’t believe how fantastic this dinner was, and how quickly it came together. This definitely has to go in my rotation for regular meals – it’s easy to multiply or divide the recipe, so it’s great for a family of two or a large dinner party (just be sure to make some bread to go along with it, or else the natives will become restless…trust me).

If you’re looking for a simple, hearty, home-cooked meal, this is the recipe for you. Give it a try this weekend! You won’t be sorry!

Bon appetit, mes amis!
– Jessica

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One Response to “I’m Sensing a Theme…”

  1. Ardeth Blood says:

    That stew made even this vegetarian wanna try some.
    I love the fact you add photos of everything as you cook.

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