Saturday, April 12, 2008
On weekends my husband loves to cook complicated meals that we don’t have time to make during the week. This morning the sound of hailstones and thunder woke us up. The day looked so bleak, Steve decided to make Boeuf Bourguignon using some boneless short ribs he picked up at his favorite butcher shop, Hilltop Steakhouse and Butcher Shop in Braintree. Before we even ate breakfast he pulled a package of beef marrow bones from the freezer. Soon he was browsing Julia Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking with me looking over his shoulder.
Gnarly foods like marrow bones aren’t really in my repertoire, but Steve loves that kind of thing. First he roasted the bones in the oven with salt and pepper for about an hour, explaining that this will make his stock really rich and brown. Then he added them to a stock pot half filled with water, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary and whole peppercorns. He also threw in a piece of leftover pork because, “Julia Child said meat adds richness and flavor.”
After simmering the stock for about three hours, he strained it and began to cook his Boeuf Bourguignon. Since short ribs tend to be fatty and the marrow certainly was, he decided to leave out the bacon. The short ribs were three long strips of marbled beef that he cut into thirds, leaving decent sized chucks of meat. He didn’t have the cookbook open in front of him, but he assured me he was sticking to the essence of Julia Child’s recipe.
I followed him around taking notes on every step of the process until he finally looked at me and said, “You do realize how annoying you’re being, don’t you?”
I offered to clean his mushrooms to compensate. Mushrooms should never be washed in water. Instead, using a soft bristled mushroom brush, gently wipe off any dirt. The trick to sautéing mushrooms is to use a fairly high heat setting so they brown before releasing any of their juice. If you have a lot of mushrooms (like here) sauté them in small batches or they will steam, rather than fry. For this recipe, Steve “brown-braised” the onions and sautéd the mushrooms separately until they were tender. They got added to the braised beef and broth at the last minute.
Ten hours after Steve began this odyssey, I was washing the last dish reflecting on whether the meal we ate was worth the time it took. The broth was rich and complex and the mushroom’s earthy flavor was a perfect match for the beef. We served it with a side of mashed potatoes and some sautéed Swiss chard. Even though this is one of the most time extensive recipes I've seen in a while, I guess I would have to agree with Julia that “this is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.”
Steve’s Boeuf Bourguignon
2 1/2 pounds beef short ribs or rump pot roast cut into 3 inch chunks
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed with blade of chef’s knife
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon thyme
20 pearl onions, peeled, but left whole
20 small white button mushrooms, stems trimmed and halved
15 baby portabella mushrooms, stems trimmed and halved
Dry the meat with paper towels so it will brown. Season chunks of meat with salt and pepper and dredge them in flour. In a Dutch oven pan, sear them in a little olive oil over medium high heat until brown. Remove from pan, add carrots, onion and garlic and sauté for three minutes. Add red wine, beef stock and thyme. Taste broth and add salt and pepper as needed. Simmer for two and a half hours, turning the meat occasionally and skimming fat off as it rises to the surface.
At this point sauté the pearl onions in a tablespoon of butter, lightly rolling them in the pan until lightly browned and then add 1/2 cup of your stew broth to the pan and braise the onions until they are tender and broth is mostly gone, about 30 minutes. Put the onions in a bowl and wash the pan so you can use it for the mushrooms.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in the pan and when the butter is hot, sauté both types of mushrooms in small batches until they are lightly browned and tender. Add to the bowl with onions.
Add the beef chunks to the same bowl and strain the thickened broth. Pour it back into the Dutch oven and add the beef, onions and mushrooms. Gently reheat for about five minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes.