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beefs

In case you were wondering, Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon IS that complicated. Spelling it right is, too. Kim and I set out to recreate this epic dish and, even starting as a two-person team, it was still about a six-hour process. I also don’t know how Amy Adams had time to fall asleep, because there was no point at which I got to stop doing things. On the other hand, it was awesome.

You can find a pretty good transcript of the recipe here (but not quite complete, annoyingly), if you don’t have the cookbook. Note that you will also need her instructions on sauteing mushrooms (this one is a direct, complete copy) and brown-braising pearl onions (close enough), even if you think you know how to do these things.

Some notes:

  • One of the best things about the original recipe is the detailed information on wine. It recommends pairing with “a fairly full-bodied, young red wine, such as Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux-St. Émilion, or Burgundy,” and using any of those or a Chianti to go into the stew.
  • 3 cups of wine = 1 bottle. I doubled the recipe. Whoo!
  • I bought pre-cut-up stew meat, some of which was cut a lot finer than the other, and on the whole big chunks worked a lot better for drying and browning.
  • Conversely, I couldn’t find an unsliced chunk of bacon anywhere, and regular old thick-sliced seemed to work okay.
  • I over-salted because I forgot, as always, to account for the massive amounts of salt in bouillon cubes. :( Use caution, or perhaps better beef stock.
  • Blanching helps when you realize you have to peel 48 pearl onions.
  • I couldn’t really get the sauce to thicken in the end, but it seemed to end up okay just letting it reduce a lot even if it never really reached light-spoon-coating consistency. =/

For extras, here is the rosemary bread recipe I have been fussing with of late. It’s sort of long but that’s because the procedure is the complicated part; sorry. Start this ~3 hrs before you want to eat it.

  • 2 1/2 tsp yeast, which is~1 packet
  • 2 c. warm water, ~110-115 F, which is warm but just shy of scalding
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 c. flour. Bread flour is nice if you can get it, and if you do not consider extra gluten cheating.
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary plus more for topping. Fresh is important! You can sub out some for fresh thyme.
  • olive oil, corn meal, sea salt

Dissolve yeast in the warm water and sugar. If it’s NOT instant/fast-acting/bread-machine yeast, give it <5 min to froth up. Otherwise, immediately add flour, salt, and 2 tsp rosemary and stir until blended. Do not knead! Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until double in size; bonus points for putting it someplace slightly warm and moist.

Oil a baking sheet and sprinkle with corn meal. Perhaps try oiling your hands instead of flouring them, as the dough is super sticky, then divide it in half, shape each half quickly and loosely into a round by tucking the edges under, and place on the baking sheet. Cover and let rise another hour. The stickiness is again a problem; cooking-sprayed plastic wrap is the only thing I’ve managed to use that DIDN’T stick horribly and make the top of my loaves lumpy.

With bread, some last-minute rising happens in the oven and for that you want things hot and steamy (har). Start heating your oven early, maybe half an hour into the second rise, to 450 or “lots.” My oven here has no numbers on the dial between 350 and 500 so I use my imagination, but I don’t think getting it too hot is a possibility. If you have a pizza stone, put it in now. Also put a cast-iron skillet in the bottom of the oven (or something else which can be raised to high temps empty, then have cool water thrown in it without exploding).

When bread is again about doubled in size, brush with olive oil and top with more rosemary and plentiful crushed sea salt. Get yourself some water, maybe 1/4 cup, on hand near your oven as now you must act quickly! Put the bread in (just stick the pan on the pizza stone if using one, unless you want to get fancy and try to slide the bread onto the stone directly), dump the water on your previously-heated skillet or whatever where it will send up exciting clouds of steam, and close the oven door quickly. Bake 10 min, adding more water for steam if it runs out. Then turn the oven down to 375 and bake another 20 min or so until it’s golden-browny.

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