I have written about this before, but it is worth repeating, probably over and over again. Life is too short to always wait to use the fine china or (in my case) the Reidel glasses. I use fine crystal stemware every day, and if one breaks, it breaks! I do cellar bottles of wine, but only ones I have specifically researched to age. The more expensive bottles of wine I buy every day, I drink--no matter what price I paid! True, we can't eat or drink everything we want all day, all the time. However, saving remarkable food, drinks, or friends only for once in a while is not living well. Life is meant to be enjoyed! Use the good sheets. Wear that expensive pair of shoes. Break out the fine dishes. Drive the nice car. Eat that decadent dessert. Sip the higher priced wine. But, most importantly--get together with those friends! I am...because it is a special occasion after all--just because!
Here is Julia Child's classic recipe for beef Bourguignon. You can find it from a quick Google search. My sister-outlaw Michelle never really follows a recipe exactly, but these are the basic guidelines to follow. Yes, look at all of those steps! That's why this is such a special treat!
- 1 6 ounce piece chunk bacon
- 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 onion, sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups red wine, young and full bodied
- 3 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- 20 small white pearl onions
- 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
- herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- 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.
- 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 side dish with a slotted spoon.
- Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. 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 coves 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 bouquet. 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 1-2 minutes, 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. (We had mashed potatoes.)