Sauté de Boeuf à la Bourguignonne (Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon)
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Sauté de Boeuf à la Bourguignonne (Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon)

Everyone loves the rich flavor of beef (everyone. The vegetarians are lying), and while there will always be porterhouse, sirloin, hanger steak, and whatever other grilled cut that really lets you appreciate the taste of beef, there will always be classic old-world preparations of beef (usually using the tougher cuts) that bring ingredients together to compliment the flavor of beef using tenderizing techniques, heavy seasoning (sometimes to mask the fact that they were near spoiling), and present them in a way that was appetizing yet affordable, usually using what was on hand.  I think this is one of them–the steak of the 47%–Beef Bourguignon, or beef Burgundy is a traditional French peasant’s dish that is essentially beef and vegetables braised in red wine and beef broth.  It’s got that stick-to-your-ribs quality that is perfect for a winter stew.  I took and modified the recipe from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, a cookbook I don’t open nearly enough and (being completely honest here) last used as a weight on top of a shooter sandwich (recipe to come).    But I have to warn you, this recipe takes some time…like hours.  And because this recipe is somewhat wordy (most in Mastering the Art are), I leave you without they typical snark–and there’s not much to say.  I took the recipe and modified it a bit, I stirred in some small potatoes at the last minute and served over a bed a green beans.

Jack: "Cook him a nice meal at home." 
Liz: "'Nice.' You mean like... stew?" 
Jack: "I certainly do not mean stew."

Perfect for a cold winter weekend

 Ingredients:

6 ounces of chunk bacon
3 cups Burgundy (or similar young and full-bodied red wine)
3 pounds rump pot roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
3 cups brown beef stock
20 small white onions
1 pound quartered white mushrooms
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 carrots, cut into one inch pieces
3 cloves mashed garlic
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf, split
1/2 teaspoon thyme
bouquet garni of 4 sprigs of parsley, 1/2 a bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Cut bacon into lardons and simmer in 4 cups of water, then drain and dry.  In a dutch oven, if you have it, (or a large thick pot with a heavy lid) sauté the lardons for three minutes on medium heat in one tablespoon of the olive oil and remove the bacon to a small bowl, leaving the oil and fat.  In order to ensure browning, dry beef on some paper towels.  Heat the fat until it is nearly smoking and add the beef (slowly, because adding three pounds of cold beef at once can really drop the temperature of the pan and the oil, and cold oil doesn’t brown beef, it boils it, ew). Do it in two batches if you have to, but make sure the pieces are nicely browned on each side and set aside.  In the same fat, at moderate heat, brown all of the vegetables and set them aside. Add the salt and pepper to the browned beef pieces and lightly toss with flour to coat.  To get a nice crust on the beef, move the pot to the oven for 4-5 minutes at 450, carefully stir, and cook for another 4-5 minutes.  Return the dutch oven to the stove top and turn the oven down to 325 degrees.  Return the brown vegetables to the beef and stir in the red wine over medium-high heat. Add the beef stock until the beef and vegetables are just barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs while bringing the liquid to a simmer.  Cover and return to the oven (adjusting the temperature to maintain a simmer) for 3 to 4 hours.  After about 2 hours you can start making the rest of the recipe. Sauté the onions over moderate heat in half the oil and half the butter until brown (8-10 minutes).  Add a half cup beef stock and the bouquet garni.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, checking periodically that the onions do not break apart and until the beef stock has evaporated.  Remove the bouquet garni and set aside the onions.  Lightly brown the mushrooms (4-5 minutes) over high heat using the other half of the oil and butter, then set aside.  Returning your attention to the casserole in the oven, the beef should be done when it is tender.  Remove from the oven and sieve into a saucepan, separating the liquid from the meat and vegetables.  Return the beef, vegetables, onions, and mushrooms to the dutch oven.  In the saucepan, simmer the sauce for 2-3 minutes while skimming off the fat.  At this point you should have about half as much liquid as you first put into the recipe, less than three cups.  Using heat to reduce (thicken) or beef stock to thin out, and always tasting for seasoning, you want to get the sauce to a consistency where it will lightly coat a spoon.  When you are happy with the taste and the consistency, pour the sauce over the beef and vegetables and simmer for 3-5 minutes, spooning the sauce over the top periodically.  Serve with small potatoes, noodles, or green vegetables.

There are some green beans under there. I promise.

Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce
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Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce

I had some friends in from Boston this weekend and although that usually means drunk brunch, street festivals, and walking the Brooklyn Bridge, it also means a night in, cooking, and catching up over a few bottles of wine.  I really had my heart set on lamb, but Brooklyn Fare was fresh out.  No worries–we picked up some vegetables and I headed over to the local butcher where I picked up some grass-fed beef filets.  I only eat red meat once in a blue moon, so when I do, I like to “do it up” right.  The French–gourmonds, chemists, builders of towers Eifel–know how to “do it up” right.  A filet crusted with peppercorns, cooked medium-rare topped with a sweet and creamy cognac pan sauce; a side of asparagus with prosciutto, and some greens wilted in garlic and onion.  I tried to go a little too fancy with some crispy fried fennel fronds on top, but ended up burning most of them and setting off the smoke detector.

Dinner with a view of Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene/New York Harbor

Steak au Poivre:

1 1/2 inch thick beef filet
handful of lightly crushed peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 ounce of cognac
6 ounces of heavy cream
Let the filet sit outside of the fridge for about 15 minutes before starting.  While letting your cast iron skillet screaming hot (we need a little Milliard action going), press the filet on each side into the crushed peppercorns.  Add the butter and oil to the pan and let them get to temperature.  Cook the filet 3-4 minutes on one side, flip, and an additional 3-4 minutes on the other, until medium rare.  Set the filet aside to rest and while the pan is still hot, turn off the burner and quickly pour the cognac into the pan and ignite the steam (YES, there will be a fireball.  YES, you should stand back a little bit.  It’s called flambé, which is French for fireball).  This should thouroughly deglaze the pan and now it’s time to start scraping vigorously to loosen up all the fond at the bottom of the pan.  Let the cognac reduce a bit, then slowly stir in the cream, whisking until thick.  Add salt to taste.  Pour pan sauce over filet and serve with a side of tinged eyebrows.  Or a side of asparagus with prosciutto, and some wilted greens – those aren’t hard.  Caramelize some red onions over low heat for 20 minutes, toss in some garlic and turn up to medium.  In about 5 minutes, toss in the greens and wilt.