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Weekend Recipe: Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

IMG_3181 Never in my entire life have I ever had such an emotional reaction to food.  Perhaps it was because I slaved in my kitchen for five hours  prior to “the reaction.”  Perhaps it was because at that very moment I felt this intense connection to  a couple of the best women in my life (my mom and great grandmother).  Perhaps it was because I didn’t think it was possible that I could produce a food that tasted so good.  Perhaps it was the wine.

Either way, having this type of reaction to a meal confirmed something I have known to be true but for some reason needed this moment to validate: I. LOVE. FOOD.  More specifically, I love cooking, despite not always prioritizing it.  And after spending the better part of my life this year studying, learning and being fascinated by Julia Child, I had decided it was time.  It was time to make Boeuf Bourguignon (and thanks to my dear friends Logan and Vaneesha for the inspiration).  And not just make it. But literally follow every single word and sentence from her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

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And that, I did.  And friends, I can say with confidence that it was most definitely the best meal I have ever made with my own hands.  And I can also say with confidence that Julia Child is what I have always thought she was: an artistic, delicious, passionate creator of some of the world’s best food.

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Here are a few things I learned while making my first Julia Child recipe:

Bacon rind?  What the heck is that?  I had to look it up. (Come on.  It’s not like I eat bacon every day or something.)  It’s the first ingredient and the first step and it seemed very important.  Here’s the deal. I am still not fully clear about bacon rind besides that it is the skin or something.  I stressed and stressed in the aisles of the grocery store worried the recipe wouldn’t be right without bacon rind.  (She tells you to buy a 6 ounce chunk of bacon with the rind…where do you buy ‘chunks’ of bacon?!) Well, I gave up.  I bought a regular pack of bacon (I did splurge on the good stuff).  I cut it up with my kitchen scissors and didn’t think about  the rind again.

Dry the beef people.  Julia says to do it and she also says to do it for EVERY meat you plan on browning.  How do you dry cubed stew beef?  Pat it down with Bounty paper towels, of course!  I patted and patted and patted.  That beef was dry.  

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The recipe calls for  the bacon to be simmered in 1.5 quarts of water and – get ready for this – I didn’t know how many cups were in a quart.  As I type this I am completely mortified.  I am sure a puppy labrador retriever could figure out how many cups were in one quart.  Enough said.

I need a dutch oven or as Julia calls it, a “fireproof casserole.”  Or some fancy cooker thing that I can not only heat on my stove but also put in the oven.  Yeah, you should have seen me transfering pounds and pounds of stew once I realized I was lacking the proper cookware.  One day when I get rich I want to buy this Williams Sonoma Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  I am still not sure of what size to buy but I am sure my mom will tell me.

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Small white onions are a pain in the…butt.  Oh yeah right, I am going to peel what seems like a thousand of these?!  I boiled them first, then peeled the skin off (still annoying but a little less annoying) and then followed JC’s instructions.

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The recipe calls for almost a full bottle of red wine (now that’s my kind of recipe).  If I have learned anything about cooking it is this – do not skimp on the wine!  Use a good bottle.  Please don’t buy Yellowtail (no offense to anyone who drinks this).  I used ONEHOPE California Cabernet Sauvignon and I am convinced this was part of the reason this dish tasted so heavenly.  I can still smell that red wine simmering…ahhhh…

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And voila!  Here is final product.  I decided to serve it over mashed potatoes (vs. boiled potatoes or rice which is what JC advises) with a side of butter peas.  Perfection. I took one bite and almost screamed at the taste.  I took another bite, savoring all of the flavors.  I closed my eyes and smiled.  My heart was racing.  I couldn’t contain myself.  Rick wasn’t getting it.  So mid third bite I called my mom.  She got it.

“Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man, and can well be the main course for a buffet dinner.”  Amen, Julia.  Amen.

I really think this falls into my top three best moments of my life 2013.  #livelikejulia

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