I recently saw “Julie & Julia” and enjoyed it so much that it inspired me to get back into French cooking. I’ve always been a major fan of Julia Child and have owned a number of her cookbooks for years. But, I never bought her first one, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, until just recently. It’s so good at guiding you through every step of the cooking process. I couldn’t wait to make one of the most popular dishes in the book and share it with you.
6oz Chunk of Bacon, with rind
4 tbl Olive Oil
3 lbs Rump Roast (or other lean stewing beef), cut into2-inch cubes
1 Carrot, sliced
1 Onion, Sliced
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 tbl Flour
3 cu Red Wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2-3 cu Beef Stock
1 tbl Tomato Paste
2 cloves Garlic, mashed
1/2 tsp Thyme
1 Bay Leaf, crumbled
18-24 Small White Onions, peeled
3 tbl Butter
Herb Bouquet (1/2 bay leaf, 4 sprigs parsley, 1/2 tsp thyme tied in a cheesecloth)
1 lb Mushrooms, quartered
Remove rind, and cut bacon into lardoons (sticks, 1/4" inch thick 1 1/2" inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain an dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Saute bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.
Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.
In the same fat, brown the sliced carrot and onion. Pour out the sautéing fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light curst.) Remove casserole a, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Stir in wine, and enough beef stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done with a fork pierces it easily.
While beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms:
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with 1 1/2 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 teaspoon 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 1 1/2 tablespoon of oil and 1 1/2 tablespoon of 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 over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
Skim fat off the sauce in the saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauces thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoon of stock. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
Cove the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve it in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed revisiting Julia Child’s recipe in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. If you have the cookbook, go through it and make some of the wonderful dishes again. If you don’t have it, by all means go out and get it soon. It’s available online and in bookstores everywhere. You’ll love it.