Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

November 16, 2011

After my French dinner party was cancelled by the snow storm a few weeks ago, then spending 6 days without power, and weeks of heavy labor cleaning in the storm’s aftermath, I decided to relax this past weekend. I took the opportunity to make the recipe that I’ve most wanted to make over the past two years: Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. No ingredient substitutions, nothing frozen, cooked exactly according to Julia Child’s instructions in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. The results were a spectacular 5-stars.

My greatest meal in 2011

This recipe required more work; both in terms of cooking and cleanup; than any other recipe I’ve made. I washed some pans three times during the 6 hour cooking process, and as I brought the meal to the table, I found myself out of breath from all the last minute running around. Exhausting, but the spectacular results were worth the effort. Julia Child had truly created a culinary masterpiece; better than Chris Kimball’s, and better I was able to buy in Paris. Très magnifique.

Comments:

  1. While my goal was to make this without a single substitution, I couldn’t fund chunk bacon, so I used salt pork. By the time I blanched the bacon it probably wouldn’t have tasted any different. Plus if I used thick sliced bacon, then I wouldn’t have had the rind.
  2. The last 30 minutes were crazy as I brought all the parts together, and in the chaos I forgot to garnish with chopped parsley; my only mistake.
  3. I used my 7-quart dutch oven, because I don’t have a casserole pan.
  4. Be sure to choose and begin your side dish of boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles or rice; start boiling the water as you begin to braise the boiler onions.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $30.
How much work? High Effort.
How big of a mess? Huge Mess.
Started: 12:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

You can see a version of Julia Child’s original recipe here.  The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below. I separated the recipe into sections so that I wouldn’t have to scroll so much while preparing the recipe.

Making the Stew:
6-oz piece of chunk bacon
1 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced into 1/2″ wheels.
1 onion, sliced against the grain.
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 bottle red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf

  1. Cut the bacon rind away from the meat, then cut the bacon meat into lardons (sticks 1/4″ thick and 1-1/2″ long).
  2. Blanch the bacon by bring 1-1/2 quarts water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the bacon rind and lardons for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, set bacon rind aside separately, discard the blanching liquid, then dry lardons with paper towels.
  3. Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
  4. Preheat oven to 450-degrees.
  5. Cut beef into 2″ cubes then pat dry using paper towels; they will not brown if damp. Heat leftover bacon fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add up to four beef cubes at a time. Sauté until nicely browned on all six sides, then remove and let rest with the lardons. It will take 4 to 5 batches, between 8 to 10 minutes per batch.
  6. In the same fat, saute the sliced onions and carrots until slightly browned for about 5 minutes. Pour out any excess fat; of which I had none.
  7. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  8. Evenly sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
  9. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this will brown the flour and give the meat a light crust).
  10. Remove casserole from oven and reduce temperature to 325-degrees.
  11. Stir in the bottle of red wine, and 2 to 3 cups beef stock; enough to barely submerge the meat.
  12. Add the 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 2 mashed garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1 crumbled bay leaf, and the bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
  13. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

Brown Braising the Onions:
18 to 24 small, white, boiler onions
3-1/2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

  1. About an hour before the meat is done, begin preparing the onions and mushrooms. Assemble you herb bouquet, by adding 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon thyme in a small square of cheesecloth and tying with kitchen twine.
  2. Also, begin to heat your water for the accompaniment: potatoes, egg noodles or rice.
  3. Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons butter with 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil until bubbling in a skillet.
  4. Add boiler onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. They will not brown uniformly.
  5. Add 1/2-cup of beef stock, the herb bouquet, and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes; swirling occasionally; until the onions are very tender but still hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Discard the herb bouquet and set cooked onions aside.
  7. Wipe out skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. Once the bubbling begins to subside add the quartered mushrooms. Toss and swirl pan for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat once they have begun to brown lightly.

Final assembly:

  1. After 3 to 4 hours in the oven you beef should be very tender. Pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wipe out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it, then distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Discard the spent carrots and whatever else is left in your sieve.
  2. Use a wide, shallow spoon to skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for 1 to 2 minutes, again skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2-1/2 cups of sauce; about the consistency of heavy cream. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper according to taste.
  3. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
  4. Serve directly in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with boiled or mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or rice. You can also decorate with parsley.
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French Onion Soup Graitinee

November 14, 2011

My emergency trip to France earlier this year gave me a chance to eat some great onion soup. While Chris Kimball has four recipes, it took me 6 months before I bought a set of broiler-safe crocs.  But finally I am able to give his recipes a try, and my first is this Best French Onion Soup. The onions are baked in the oven for 2-1/2 hours before spending another 1-1/2 hours on the stovetop. Unfortunately, the results were disappointing because the onion had become too dark in the oven; not allowing me to triple deglaze the pot on the stovetop. The end result tasted slightly burned. However other bloggers (here and here ) loved this recipe, and I see that my onions were darker than theirs in every stage of cooking. It must be my convection oven, which typically bakes “cooler” than Chris Kimball’s.  On the positive side, the Gruyere was amazing, and the long cooking time allowed the onions to deeply caramelize, so much so that I cannot imagine using any sweeter types of onion. I am disappointed that I can only give it 2-1/2 stars.

Burned onions and soggy bread.

Issues/Comments:

  1. 4 hours is too much cooking time. The onions became too dark and I was not able to triple deglaze the pot on the stovetop; which was supposed to be the “secret” to this recipe. Next time I’ve reduce the over temperature to 375-degrees and pay closer attention during the baking time. If I still have to cut down the cooking time, I want to be sure that I reduce the time in the oven rather than the triple deglazing on the stovetop.
  2. $18 for soup seems impossibly expensive; but $10 of that was the French Gruyere Comt, rather than the equally expensive, but proper Swiss Gruyere. To save money I may mix $2 worth of Jarlsberg with some fresh Parmesan.
  3. The final soup had to many onion slices, which  I realize is an odd complaint for onion soup. I wanted all the onion flavor but wished some of the slices had disintegrated.
  4. This other blogger had a brilliant idea for those without broiler-safe crocs. Broil the cheese and bread slices on a baking sheet, then slip
  5. 10 minutes in the oven to dry out the baguette slices didn’t do much to slow down them from quickly becoming mushy.

Rating: 2-1/2-stars.
Cost: $18.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 1:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4-lbs yellow onions
Table salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together using kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons:
1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese

  1. Cut your onions in half from pole to pole, and slice off the root end of onion. Peel and discard the the skin. Placing each onion half with the flat side down on cutting board, slice each onion half from pole to pole into 1/4″-thick slices. By cutting from pole to pole, the onions should maintain their shape during the 2-1/2 hours in the oven.
  2. Set an oven rack to the lower middle position in your oven. Preheat to 400 degrees.
  3. Spray the inside of a 7-quart dutch oven with non-stick cooking spray. Place 3 tablespoons of butter, and onion slices into your dutch oven. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.
  4. Fully cover and cook for 1 hour. Then remove from oven and stir and scrape the bottom and sides. Return to oven with the lid slightly ajar and cook for another 1-1/2 hours; stir and scrape the onions after 45 minutes. The onions should be very soft and golden brown.
  5. Remove the onions from the oven and put on stovetop over medium to medium-high heat. Be very careful to use oven mitts when handling the pot or lid.
  6. Cook the onions for 15 to 20 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions have browned; stir and scrape the bottom and sides frequently. Adjust the heat if your onions are browning too quickly.
  7. Continue to cook for another 6 to 8 minutes until the pot’s bottom becomes coated with dark, but not burned, crust. Again, you may need to adjusting the heat.
  8. To loosen the fond, stir in 1/4-cup water and scrape the bottom and sides. Continue to cook for another 6 to 8 minutes until the pot’s bottom again becomes coated with dark, but not burned, crust. Repeat this process of deglazing until the onions become very dark brown; 2 or 3 more times.
  9. Stir in 1/2-cup dry sherry scraping up any last bits of fond from on the bottom and sides of your pot. Cook for 5 minutes until the sherry has evaporated; stirring frequently.
  10. Now add both chicken and beef broth, 2-cups of water, thyme bundle, bay leaf, and 1/2-teaspoon table salt. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then cover and reduce to low heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, slice baguette into 1/2″-thick slices and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake slices for about 10 to 12 minutes in a 400-degree oven until the bread becomes crispy and golden along the edges.
  12. Remove and discard herbs, then season with pepper (and adjust salt if necessary).
  13. Adjust an oven rack so that it is 6″ from the broiler element. Preheat broiler on high for 5 to 10 minutes.
  14. Fill each broiler-safe crocks with soup and place on your foil-lined baking sheet.  Place 1 or 2 baguette slices with the crispy side down, being careful not to overlap your slices. Sprinkle with shredded Gruyère and broil for 3 to 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and is bubbling around edges. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Delicious onion soup from my trip to France earlier this year.


Storm Cleanup Continues

November 13, 2011

After weeks of hard work, most of the tree branch has been removed and hauled to the front of my house. The city hasn’t yet hauled them away, and all my neighbors are adding their seasonal leaves. My street is nearly impassible. So I decided to take a mini-break to give the city a chance to catch up, or at least that’s the reason I’m telling myself why I’m not working this weekend. Instead I will spend this weekend cooking. After all, Man cannot live on fried chicken alone. So, stay tuned for a few highly anticipated recipes over the first part of this week.

By the way, I’ve resigned myself that there no chance that I’ll reach my goal of 100 recipes for 2011. My break in January, trips to France and Florida, and the double whammy of Hurricane Irene and the freak October snowstorm have put me irrecoverably off the pace.

Click on the pictures to zoom. The website is displaying the gallery with tiny images.


Batter-Fried Chicken

November 10, 2011

Some of Chris Kimball’s most popular recipes are his fried chickens.  I know fried chicken is so seemingly simple, but he has taken all the guess work out. His fried chicken get 4-to-5-stars every time. I first made this batter-fried recipe just over a year ago, and it solved the problem of over-darkened skin. It turns out that the problem was adding milk to the brine or coating. The sugars in the milk solids browned too fast (not enough to adversely affect the flavor but it’s definitely visible; see photos here and here). This recipe use plain water instead of milk. The chicken emerged perfectly cooked; soft and moist. However, it was not as crunchy and as his extra-crunchy recipe. Still a solid 4-stars.

Perfectly cooked inside and out; but not extra crunchy

Issues/Comments:

  1. Because the runny batter can stick to the bottom of the dutch oven, use tongs to loosen each piece free after 4 minutes of frying.
  2. Each batch can be at most 2-pounds of chicken. I you have 5-pounds of chicken breasts, then you’ll need to make 3 batches.
  3. If you have any leftover chicken, let cool for an hour on the counter-top, then cover loosely with paper towel and refrigerate until complete chilled. Finally, cover with fresh paper towel with plastic wrap. This ensures that no condensation forms inside the plastic wrap, and will preserve the crispness of the crust, and that the chicken will not dry out.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5 for 4-pounds.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Medium/High.
Started: 4:30 pm  Ready:  6:30 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below.

Brine:
1 quart cold water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces

Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
5 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups cold water
3 quarts vegetable oil

  1. Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise, which will cook more evenly. Also cut apart any leg quarters to separate the thighs from the drumsticks.
  2. Make the brine by whisking together 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup table salt and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in large bowl. After the sugar and salt have dissolved, add chicken pieces and refrigerate for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in large bowl add together the flour, cornstarch, pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water. Whisk until the batter is smooth and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. After 1 hour, place a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 3 quarts of vegetable oil and begin pre-heating.
  5. Discard brine and pat chicken dry using paper towels.
  6. Re-whisk the batter to ensure an even consistency. Add half your chicken pieces to the bowl with the batter. If you are mixing white with dark meat, try to cook your batches either all white meat or all dark meat.
  7. When the oil reaches 350 degrees, remove chicken from batter one piece at a time and let the excess batter drip back into the bowl to avoid a doughy crust; add chicken piece to hot oil.
  8. If you want to serve the both batches together, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees to keep the first batch warm while the second batch cooks.
  9. Fry up-to-2-pounds of chicken for 14 to 15 minutes until the skin becomes deeply golden brown and the white meat registers 160 degrees (any legs of thighs should be cooked to 175 degrees). After 4 minutes stir the chicken to ensure that it has not stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  10. Place the chicken on wire rack set over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Allow it to drain then pat with paper towels. Place in 200-degree oven while you prepare the second batch.
  11. Bring oil back up to 350 degrees and repeat from step 5 with remaining chicken pieces.

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Peach Sauce

November 6, 2011

On a recent ATK episode Chris Kimball declared this recipe to be among his top five of all time. That was a strong endorsement given his thousands of delicious recipes. I made the pork with the peach sauce that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen, but there are also two other sauces with this recipe: cherry sauce or with a sweet-tart chutney (to which I could find no reference). Overall, the pork was juicy and fall-apart tender, but it was not bursting with flavor as I had imagined it. The recipe is delicious, but not a top five.  4-star.

Spends most of the day in the oven, but there's plenty of time to relax.

Chris Kimball recommends bone-in pork butt for this recipe because it retains more moister and cooks more evenly that it’s boneless counterpart. Since bone conducts heat so poorly, the meat surrounding the bone stays cooler and cooks more slowly. Plus, the large amount of connective tissue attached to bone will breaks down into a gelatin and keep the pork moist.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $18.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 12 Noon. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below.

Ingredients:

6 to 8 pound bone-in pork butt
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peach Sauce:
10-oz frozen peaches (or use 2 fresh peaches)
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

  1. The night before your meal, use a sharp knife to cut slits into the fat cap; 1″ apart forming a cross-hatch pattern, but take care not to cut into the meat.
  2. Combine 1/3-cup kosher salt and 1/3-cup brown sugar in small bowl, then rub over the entire roast (including the slits). Wrap roast tightly using two layers of plastic wrap, place of a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate until ready to cook the roast (but no more than 24 hours).
  3. The next day, unwrap and brush off any excess salt mixture using paper towels. Season roast with 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Spray your V-rack coated with non-stick cooking spray. Add 1 quart of water to your roasting pan. Place the roast on V-rack with the fat cap facing up and set aside while the oven pre-heats.
  4. Set an oven rack to the lowest position and pre-heat your oven to 325-degrees.
  5. Bake for 5 to 6 hours, depending on the size of the roast. Basting every two hours, adding more water after each basting to prevent the fond from burning. But don’t add so much water as to dilute the liquid.
  6. The roast will be finished when an instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone (but not touching) reaches 190-degrees.
  7. Place the roast on a carving board and loosely tented with aluminum foil for one hour.
  8. While the meat rests make the sauce. Pour the jus from roasting pan into a fat separator. After allowing the fat to separate for 5 minutes, pour 1/4-cup into a small saucepan. You can discard the remaining jus.
  9. Cut the peaches into 1″ chunks. Add your peach chunks, 2-cups white wine, 1/2-cup sugar, 1/4-cup rice vinegar, and 2 sprigs of thyme to the small saucepan with the 1/4-cup jus.
  10. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sauce has reduce to 2 cups remove from heat. Find and discard the thyme sprigs, then add the final tablespoon of rice vinegar and tablespoon of whole-grain mustard. Mix together and cover to keep warm.
  11. Cut around the bone (shaped like an up-side-down “T”) with a paring knife, then use a clean kitchen towel to pull it from the roast.
  12. Slice the roast using a serrated knife, and serve, passing the peach sauce separately.

What a Disaster

November 3, 2011

It’s been 5 days since the storm knocked out my power. August’s record rainfall left our giant 150-year-old maple tree full of leaves, and the wet, heavy snow brought down more than 50% of it’s canopy. I don’t know if it can survive.

You can't really tell the enormity from this angle. But this one branch is larger than most trees. A lot of work to clean up.

The Orange & Rockland Electric Company is completely incompetent. It’s been 5 days and I haven’t seen a single repair truck from the power company in my town since the storm.  Also, I used their website to report my outage, and when I check the status they have “cleared” the outage online; but without actually fixing anything. Once might be a misunderstanding, but they have “cleared” my outage 3 times and still no power. It seems hopeless.

Below if a picture of the meal I made right after the blackout hit; a little bit of everything from my fridge; chicken, leeks, mushrooms, bell pepper, even salami. I deglazed the pan with some red wine and thicken into a nice sauce with corn starch.  I haven’t been able to eat anything decent since; because I’ve been too busy with cleanup and the extra work of living without electricity.

Using up everything in the fridge

One more picture to demonstrate the untimeliness of the storm; my summer flowers were still in bloom.

Summer flowers still in bloom


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