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Making Julia Proud

You may  have thought I ran away or, worse, stopped cooking. Well neither is true. I’ve just been very busy and overworked. But when my husband just suggested that we blog together (insert loud gasp here!) or share stories about how I used to eat cold, uncooked hot dogs out of the refrigerator as a child (sadly this is true) on this blog, I knew it was time to start typing. The reason for my absence? For the first time in almost four years, I’m working at an office five days a week! While it has been nice to get out of the sweats and go Working Girl, the change has put a serious crimp in my cooking.

But there is nothing like a good old cooking class to get you back on the horse. My first experience with “cooking” and “class” involved watching my mother learn how to make homemade pasta in our kitchen. In a word, traumatic. And there is nothing like a scheduled cooking class to get you back in the kitchen. Luckily, my experience at the Viking Cooking School in Bryn Mawr was nothing like this.

I like learning how to cook things that scare me and since it doesn’t get more intimidating than Beef Bourguignon  and Chocolate Souffle, I chose a french cooking class. I’ve danced around making either of these dishes for many years, but the time had come. And what is great about cooking classes is how much “side” knowledge you always get from the chef – the proper way to hold your knife, how to cut an onion etc.

The class pairs everyone off into groups of four. I was lucky to have a great group of ladies who worked really well together. And I have to say after 2.5 hours of cooking, there is nothing that smells better than a kitchen full of Beef Bourguignon. Making this dish I truly forgot what I was ever a vegetarian (assuming you have grass fed beef etc. as I still consider the quality of meats very important). For me, the key was breaking the dish into steps and taking it one section at a time.

I am waiting for a special occasion to recreate this meal for a little dinner party at home. In the meantime, I’ll admit to making a sausage (vegan), mushroom and onion Stromboli from Pillsbury biscuit rolls for dinner tonight. But it IS Super Bowl Sunday so I think Julia wouldn’t mind too much…

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon 

Ingredients

Directions

Remove rind and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2-inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Saute the 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 saute 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 vegetables. Pour out the sauteing 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 crust.) Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine and enough stock or bouillon 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 when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

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 bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 21/2 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 of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

(*) Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

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