If you were going to make boeuf bourguignon, wouldn’t you just turn to the expert and consult Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking? That’s what the Accidental Locavore thought when It was time to make a special meal for my husband.
Luckily, my copy is not a first edition (although it’s probably about 40 years old), because my poor book ended up getting really abused in the process of looking up and making the recipe. Between tossing a full glass of water all over it and then dripping stuff on it while cooking, you’d never know it was one of my favorites!
Whatever you think of Julia Child (and I’m a huge fan), it’s always fascinating to make one of the recipes from the book. They’re smart, well written, well edited and even when they start to get complicated, make sense. That may sound like me being fussy (probably true) but when you look at something like Mastering the Art and compare it to a modern best seller, like say Jerusalem, there’s just such a huge difference. Part of it is confidence. I know Julia will never let me down, but with Ottolenghi, it’s very much hit-or-miss.
Anyway, back to the boeuf. For once I was a pretty faithful recipe follower and I’m glad I was. My usual tactic with something like this would be to just dump in a bunch of mushrooms and pearl onions (and to the horror of my friend Zhu Zhu, yes, I do buy frozen onions — hate peeling the fresh ones). Julia has you cook both separately and it was definitely worth the time (and cleanup). This time, you got a real taste of mushrooms, sautéed in butter, earthy and flavorful. Same with the onions, after being browned and then braised in beef stock. Of course, beautiful grass-fed beef from our Brykill Farm share helped, as did a good bottle of Burgundy. If I get more obsessive, I’ll look into making my own egg noodles and who knows, might even start peeling pearl onions. In the meantime, for this and coq au vin, the mushrooms and onions will always get the Julia treatment!