Yesterday morning, while North American readers were still snoozing, and European readers were sipping their third espresso, I was working on 250 grams of mushrooms. Polish mushrooms, to be exact. (In France, naming the origine of food products is terribly important.)
By “working on” the mushrooms, I mean that I was pulling off the stems, and then carefully peeling the thin skin off the mushroom caps. This was not particularly tiring work, but it sure was fiddly. As I neared completion, I had a sudden burst of creativity and fluted the caps of two of the button mushrooms. Have a look:
Of course the bowl of peeled mushrooms was not an end in itself, but another step in the somewhat long process of making a French classic — boeuf bourguignon — that for some reason I had never cooked before. You may remember this dish being featured prominently in the movie “Julie and Julia,” in which the young New Yorker Julie tries to make all the dishes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child.
Personally, I never much cared for the book, and we left our copy behind when we moved to France from Toronto. Instead, I was following the recipe for Boeuf à la Bourguignonne (which seems to have an awful lot of n‘s in it) from a favourite cookbook, Saveur Cooks Authentic French. The book helpfully provides an English translation: Beef Stew Burgundy Style, in case you were wondering.
My cooking process actually started on Saturday, when I trimmed the chunks of beef, mixed in some diced carrots and onions, a bouquet garni, and a couple of cloves of garlic. Then I poured a bottle of red Burgundy wine over the mixture. (Wine note: I used a bottle of Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains, a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, which Wikipedia calls “an uncomplicated, fruity wine intended to be consumed young.” It is also what I call “one of the few Burgundy wines I could find at the supermarket.” Cleverly, I had also purchased a second bottle to drink along with the dish at lunch.) In any case, this dish of wine-soaked beef spent Saturday night in our spare refrigerator, relaxing and generally making itself comfortable.
Then on Sunday morning, I simply browned the beef with lardons (strips of smoked bacon), and then put the beef into a casserole with the marinade and some extra water. Next came three hours of cooking in a relatively slow oven, after which I added the peeled mushroom caps and cooked the stew for another 30 minutes. Yes, we’re talking “tender.”
And guess what? It was absolutely delicious! For our Sunday lunch, we had it with whipped potatoes and some broccoli, along with the previously mentioned wine. Here’s how it looked:
And then, wonder of wonders, we had the leftover stew today for lunch, this time with steamed potatoes and green beans. And it was every bit as delicious as our Sunday lunch, even though we were fresh out of Burgundy wine. Instead, we made do with a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, and were quite happy about it all.