Inspired by this month’s book club selections, Heat and The Nasty Bits, Eric posted recipe selections from Babbo and Les Halles last Saturday. One of the recipes I chose to make last weekend was boeuf bourgignon because I already had most of the ingredients on hand (also, the moules mariniere recipe is basically the same as Reichl’s). I picked up a 2 pound shoulder roast from Cafe Rouge – they’re accustomed to my bizarre requests. A tip about any decent butcher: if what you want is not displayed, ask. They often have it in the back, or they’ll order it for you. As I was cutting up the roast into 1.5 inch cubes, I realized that this recipe was different than any of the other bourgignon recipes I’d used before (my French coworker’s mom’s, MTAFC, Bouchon). Most of them required an entire bottle of wine and only one onion; this one required four onions and only one cup of wine. also, the recipes I’d used before incorporated bacon and mushrooms. But Julia says that there’s more than one way to to arrive at a good boeuf bourgignon, so I figured I’d follow Tony’s recipe. Besides, I reasoned, as I measured out the one cup of wine, I can just drink the rest while I cook! How Julia is that?
A few of the major points I’ve learned from Judy Rodgers in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook is to dry the surfaces and salt your meat generously and early, and also to bring it somewhat close to room temperature before you start cooking. After thoroughly blotting the moisture from the cubes and seasoning them, I let them stand for about an hour. I might have even considering salting the entire roast (before cutting it up) a few days ahead of time if I was planning to make it later. The cubes browned beautifully in two batches in my Le Creuset dutch oven. I realized, though, as I was sauteeing the onions, that I might have miscalculated. I did use four, but two of them were huge. We’re talking grapefruit sized onions. And instead of waiting until the onions browned, I added the flour about two minutes into the saute. When I added the cup of wine, it seemed like a pitiful amount of liquid in comparison to the amount of onions. Oh well, I thought to myself. The vegetables will probably release more liquid, but what doesn’t need more wine, as I poured myself a third glass. (Perhaps *that* had something to do with my miscalculations). Though I couldn’t resist tossing in a couple slices of pancetta, I followed the rest of the recipe, adding carrots and a bouquet garni, water to cover plus a few spoonfuls of demiglace, then skimming, scraping and stirring over the next couple of hours. Despite my level of intoxication by the time the recipe was done, it tasted pretty damn good, though it looks nothing like the picture. It looked (and tasted) more like an onion stew with beef. The onion flavor was pretty assertive – very sweet, and the wine flavor was just a whisper. I can see why this recipe remains popular – you can drink the rest of the bottle (after browning the beef, that is) and it’ll still turn out tasty!