Sunday, January 10, 2010

My good friend Laura

Ever the fun-lover, Laura gave us all a good laugh last night at wine night by bringing her special appetizer. As we texted her, "Get your a** down here. What's taking you so long?" She replied, "I'm putting the finishing touches on my appetizer! Be there in a minute." I shuddered with fear and texted back, "Please don't." But show up with an appetizer she did. Here it is:

Yes, that is saltine crackers and american cheese, artfully arranged on a platter. It is all in the presentation, right?

She is such a good sport, it is hard to make fun of her for her single-minded interest in birding. She talked so much about the crows she was tracking yesterday that today I noticed the gathering of them she told us about. This was ironic, because at the time, Laura was in her kitchen, exhausting herself over Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. Now, Laura did not decide to make this all on her own. She asked me this morning for ideas about what to do with her pork roast. Well, what kind of pork roast, I inquired. She couldn't remember exactly, so she called her husband. "A beef top round" came the answer. So, there we have just a little bit of insight into Laura's approach to food: she can't even recall exactly what it is that she wants to cook. As she good-naturedly giggled that away, I suggested to her that she made Ms. Child's signature dish. I pulled out my copy of MTAOC and coached her through the recipe. "You can do it" I told her. "Julia brought this dish to American housewives on the first episode of The French Chef. I was practically a cheerleader with my encouragement. I even lent her my enameled casserole because she didn't own a suitable fire-proof, oven-safe dish. The last text I received from her said "My beef bougnonne or whatever smells out of this world, but you failed to tell me it would be an hour and half of prep. You lied. Laying on the couch exhausted." Well, not really, Laura. It probably shouldn't have taken quite so long, but hey, it did and I hope you find the reward worth the effort. There is a lot to be said for spending time in the kitchen, making something special that will reward you far more with its taste and your own sense of accomplishment. You go girl, I'm proud of you.


Here is the recipe. My caveat: bacon with rind can be hard to find. Feel free to leave it out.

Serves 6

Kitchen Supplies:

  • 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep
  • Slotted spoon
Boeuf Bourguignon:

  • 6 ounces bacon
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind
  • 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
  • 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs
Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté 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.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

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 preheated 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, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set 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.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the melt 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.

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 or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Covet the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Copyright © 1961, 1983, 2001 by Alfred A. Knopf.


PK said...

For the record, it was great. Smelled great, tasted great. And went quite well with the fresh loaf of italian bread I made today. And if Laura doesn't mention it, your blog made her LOL.


laura K said...

Not only LOL, but ROTFLMAO. In tears, for ten minutes. You hit the nail on the head about the pork roast. I really couldn't give a damn about food. : )

The recipe called for wine. But doesn't every recipe made after 5 pm call for wine?

The Bird Nerd

Anonymous said...

Left you a present at Hope Radio...xox

TexasHeather said...

filing this one away for cooler temps. Sounds out of this world, but no way am I having the oven on for 3 hours in this heat (80 to 90* F) with no A/C. This will be perfect for our winter in a few months.

Unless you think I could do this in the crockpot???

(kidding!!!! Just kidding!!!!)

Krissie said...

My husband and I once went to an Italian restaurant that served American cheese as part of it's antipasto. I knew as soon as I saw the cheese, curling at the corners on the platter that I shouldn't have ordered the Veal Marsala! My husband wisely ordered a juicy New York Strip as soon as he took one look at the joint!
But...about Laura. I wish we lived closer, June, so we could compare notes, because I have to say every time I have been at her house she has fed me very well indeed! She has made savory, sensuous, potstickers bursting with ginger and garlic (and I saw her stuffing each one so I know she made them!), velvety pumpkin soup (yum!), and hearty Cincinnati chile (ok, not that technical, but she didn't forget any ingredients and even had all the fixin's on hand). So I think she's got a good thing going PRETENDING she can't cook whenever she's been too long in the woods or meadows staring into trees and bushes looking for birds (I'm pictuing Maria Von Trapp rushing back down the mountain as the convent bells are ringing...).
So...the question is:
How do you solve a problem like Laura?!

Laura K said...

This is like a bad episode of Desperate Housewives.

Woman (call me Katherine, or Dana Delany) moves to fairy-tale village, concealing her sordid past as a top chef of college town in Ohio. Tries to fit in with the local ladies (Lynette, Bree, Susan, and Gabby) and finds the only way to eventually take over Bree's bakery business (and Susan's husband) is to pretend she can't cook and be taken in as Bree's humble slave....

As my mother in law put it: I can cook. I just don't want to.

She got that right. : )