Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recipe: Julia Child's Famous Boeuf Bourguignon

                                A scene from 'Julie & Julia'

I saw 'Julie & Julia' today at my favourite cinema The Verona in Paddington in Sydney. When it comes to films I'm obsessively anti-social.I prefer seeing films by myself on a weekday morning when I can usually have the whole cinema to myself and pretend it's my own private theatre. All I need is a bag of cheese twisties and I'm about as close to heaven on earth as I can get!
While overall I found 'Julie and Julia' disappointing and the characterisation of both Julia Child and Julie Powell slightly cartoonish, I thought Meryl Streep was outstanding. And of course, the food was the real star - as it should be.

Julia Child's beef bourguignon was almost Julie's undoing in the film so I couldn't wait to challenge myself to the Julia Child Beef Bourguignon Pressure Test.
I found this adaptation of her famous recipe on the ABC News America website. This is a very fiddly recipe  involving too many pots and sieving and reducing for my liking. I'm sure if you browned all the ingredients separately, then combined them in the pot, added the liquid ingredients and then popped it into the oven for two to three hours you would get a similarly delicious result.

Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon
(Recipe Courtesy of Julia Child From the Kitchen of Julia Child)
Servings: 6
Difficulty: Difficult
Cook Time: Over 180 min

This recipe is adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961)

One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du
Rhone or Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter
teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.
Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef
lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust).

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees. Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a
simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add 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. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb
Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.
Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
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 lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.  Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, 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 stock. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several  times.
Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.
brown the beef, bacon lardons and vegetables separately

small onions in a delicious coating of browned butter

garlic and mushrooms are an essential ingredient of beef bourguignon

Add the red wine and beef stock and let your oven do its magic...


serve with rice, pasta or potatoes

You can obviously find simpler, far less time consuming versions of boeuf bourguignon all over the internet. Is it worth doing it Julia's way? Well, the flavours in her version are like no other boeuf bourguignon I've tasted outside France. Very rich and deeply flavoured. If you were cooking for someone who knew their boeuf bourguignon from their beef casserole do it Julia's way and you will have a food slave for life!


  1. I enjoyed the movie, it was fun, wondered why I'd never thought of cooking through someones cookbook, and the important bit blogging it. I too came away thinking I must perfect the" classic beef bouginuignon recipe.

  2. If you are putting in so much more effort than a regular stew, it's only going to be worthwhile if the flavours reflect it:) Sounds like a recipe for when you want, not just to be IN the kitchen but to be 'at one' with the kitchen;) I'm looking forward to seeing 'Julie and Julia' Meryl Streep certainly LOOKS the part:D

    Would you make it again as you did, Indira, or do you think you'd be more likely to cut a few corners?

  3. Hi Jacqui,
    look forward to hearing about your BB successes!Indira

    Hi Coby,
    I just don't have the patience for these types of recipes even if they do taste better than the short cut recipes. Life is too short for spending more time cooking than eating I say! But if you do enjoy the cooking process this recipe will blow your guests away.Indira