making food from anywhere, with anything

“Noncooks think it’s silly to invest two hours’ work in two minutes’ enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.”

Bet you can’t guess who was quoted saying that.  Wise words, in my opinion.  Still can’t guess?  Well, perhaps this dish will give you a hint.

I spent yesterday with my Grandma, and we decided to cook something epic for dinner.  I don’t think we’ve ever really cooked anything before, but we should more often because this came out marvelously.  Yes, marvelously.


Mmmm.  Look at those mushrooms and pear onions.  Just smothered in the most delicious sauce.

But still, what could it be?

Why, it was Boeuf a la Bourguignonne. Again, straight out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

boeuf bourguignonne

Boeuf Bourguignonne


1 6oz chunk of bacon (a slab of bacon will have a rind on it)

a 9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole 3 inches deep

1 TB olive oil

a slotted spoon

3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes

1 sliced carrot

1 sliced onion

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 TB flour

3 cups full-bodied young red wine such as a Chianti, Burgundy or Bordeaux

2-3 cups brown beef stock

1 TB tomato paste

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/2 tsp thyme

a crumbled bay leaf

18-24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock

1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sauteed in butter

parsley sprigs


preheat oven to 450 degrees

1. cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). simmer the lardons and rind for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. drain and dry.

2. in the casserole described above, or a pan, saute the bacon in the oil over moderate heat to brown lightly. remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. set casserole aside. reheat until fat is almost smoking before you saute the beef. add some olive oil here if the pan is too dry.

3. dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. add it to the bacon.

4. in the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. pour out the sauteing fat.

5. return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. set casserole uncovered in middle position of pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust). remove casserole, then turn oven down to 325 degrees.

6. stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs (thyme and bay leaf), and bacon rind. bring to simmer on top of the stove. then cover the casserole and set it in lower third of preheated oven. regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. the meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

7. while the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. set them aside until needed. (for the onions: peel and put in a skillet with some butter. brown them. then, place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of beef stock and a bouquet garni of a few sprigs of parsley, 1/4 tsp thyme, and 1/2 a bay leaf.  simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the onions are tender, but still have their shape///for the mushrooms: place in a saute pan with some butter and brown.  don’t crowd the pan – they will not brown!)

8. when the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

9.  skim fat off the sauce. simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. you should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.  if too thin, boil it down rapidly. if too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock. taste for seasoning. pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

***up until this point, the recipe can be made in advance***

now, for immediate serving:

10. cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. serve in its casserole or on a platter surrounded by potatoes, noodles, or rice. garnish with some parsley.

now, for later serving:

10. when cold, cover and refrigerate. about 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer. cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

And there you have it.  This recipe starts out pretty labor intensive, but once you get a handle on things, it’s a pretty smooth process.  We didn’t realize it was going to take up to 3 hours, so our kitchen was a little chaotic at first.  However, once the meat was in the oven, there was a good hour…hour and a half of downtime.  What to do with the time? Have a glass of wine (we did) and enjoy the smell your efforts cooking in the oven.  We only had a Shiraz on hand, so that’s what we went with for this.  It still came out amazingly.  Also, we did not buy a 6 oz slab of bacon, we just bought a package of presliced bacon.  It worked out.  We chose to serve it with egg noodles, however this meal is traditionally served with boiled potatoes.  So, you can either do as the French do, or… do what you want. If you want to serve a green vegetable with this dish, Julia says buttered peas are your best choice.  Buttered peas sound pretty good, actually.  But anything buttered sounds good.

a pile of deliciousness

So, I feel pretty accomplished.  The sauce was so good.  So…good. I could’ve put it in a glass and drank it.  Seriously.  Everything was so…so flavorful.  I can’t even properly describe it.  All I can say is, if you’ve got a lazy Sunday ahead of you, DO THIS.  MAKE THIS.  This recipe is difficult, but it’s not insurmountable.  Everyone you make it for will fall over in ecstasy.

Perhaps another post later…I made psychedelic cupcakes this morning.

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