I have a love hate relationship with cooking. It seems on one day I am content to eat out of a box and the next I am planning an elaborate meal. Maybe that’s a bit of a reflection on my personality, which can be, from time-to-time, all or nothing.
Like so many before me, I have been a huge fan of the movie Julie & Julia. When I first saw it I was so inspired that I turned around and watched it a second time while cooking something so uninspiring that I can’t even remember it today. But the thing about that movie was that it lingered with me for months and apparently planted a little seed of inspiration, and reignited a long suppressed passion I have for cooking.
My family thoughtfully recognized this and responded with culinary gifts at Christmas. My daughter gave me the wonderful ‘Julie & Julia’ movie and my beloved husband gave me the most amazing Le Creuset Dutch oven in beautiful color 'ocean'.
There was also an amazingly expensive chef’s knife, a phenomenal wedge of Parmesan that is so divine that I've savored slice after slice. But the piece de resistance was ‘Mastering the art of French Cooking’ by Julia Childs.
Each ingredient of a recipe is singularly wonderful, just as the violinist, cellist and flutist are in an orchestra. But it is the recipe itself that conducts the utensils, ingredients, and cook and joins them together to make great music. I was in grown-up girl heaven.
I took the time between Christmas and New Years to read the cookbook just as someone would read a novel. It was informative, comical, helpful, and incredibly patient. Yes, patient. Not something I would have expected from this particular book but it was truly patient. I found great comfort in the step-by-step instructions and the explanations. After all, its whole purpose was to teach, and that it does.
Once I was done reading, it was time to decide which recipe to select for my first adventure into Julia Child’s world. It almost seemed like a silly contemplation. What else would someone make if they wanted to cook like Julia Childs? Boeuf bourguignon of course!
So here is a pictorial of my adventure into the world of Julia Childs Boeuf Bourguignon.
Here is an image of my beautiful LeCreuset Dutch oven before its first use...all shiny and clean without a splatter stain or smudge. It didn't stay looking like this for long.
The first step involved removing the rind from a chunk of bacon and cutting the bacon into lardons (a term I was unfamiliar with until now and means sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long).
The lardons were then simmered in water. This process removed the smoky flavor from the bacon. The bacon was then sautéed in oil and set aside. Next comes the stewing beef...
As the instructions said, and documented in the movie, the beef was dried before sautéing to ensure it would brown properly.
It was also important to sauté the beef in batches, giving each piece enough space. Here is the first batch.
Once it was all Sautéd it was set aside for later.
The next step was to brown the carrots and onions in the beef fat.
At this point I had become so engrossed in the process that I forgot to take pictures but I can tell you it involved returning the beef to the casserole, tossing everything with salt, pepper, and flour and then placing the casserole in the over for several minutes. This process browns the flour covering the meat and gives it a light crust.
Things were now getting really interesting...it was time to add the wine. As I was intent to follow the recipe 'down to the tee' I measured the wine into a large liquid measuring cup to get exactly the three cups that was called for. To my amazement there was about a 1/2" of wine left in the bottle. Why would Julia leave such a small amount in the bottle...what a waste! When recounting this to a friend later she pointed out that Julia left that small amount for the cook to drink and enjoy. But Of Course!
Once the wine, stock, tomato paste, and seasonings were added it was time for a long and gentle sleep in the oven. While the beef was cooking there was time to prepare the onions and mushrooms.
The fresh mushrooms were quartered and sautéed in butter.
When the kitchen timer rang 2 1/2 hours later it was time to finish it off. The onions and mushrooms were added....
and the sauce was thickened, the seasonings adjusted, and it was finally time to enjoy.
I must admit, the photo doesn't look especially appetizing but the smell in our house was amazing and the beef was so incredibly tender that 'yum' was truly being said around the table.
My first adventure into 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' was a success and has built up my confidence to move ahead with another one of Julia Childs recipes. I'm thinking Reine De Saba (Chocolate and Almond Cake)
(image via flickr.com)
Would you like to 'Master the Art of French Cooking' while using a LeCreuset Dutch oven and watching Julie & Julia? I highly recommend it!