When winter strikes, I get lazy. I crave warm sticky puddings for dessert, and piping hot stews with mashed potatoes for dinner. And the less effort involved, the better… so I can go back to being snuggled up next to my heater.
One thing I particularly love is braised meat. I love how you can take tough, sinewy cuts of meat and chuck them in a pot – fast forward a few hours and you’re rewarded with tender, gelatinous chunks of meat that fall apart with the poke of a fork. Since seeing Julie and Julia I’ve always wanted to try making the infamous Beef Bourguignon that Julie Powell burns in the oven since she falls asleep and doesn’t hear the timer. It’s not surprising that she did fall asleep because when I made it the first time it took nearly the whole day to make! I don’t know if it was because I was slow or that it did actually require that much time but it was definitely time-consuming (but the flavour was fantastic!).
So when I decided to revisit Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon, I thought about what shortcuts I could take. Some of you are probably thinking that it is sacrilege to be changing Julia Child’s original recipe, but seriously it saved me a lot of time and effort and the end result was just as tasty. The best thing about it is that it appeals to my lazy winter self – after the prep work all you have to do is leave it simmering away on the stove for a few hours, then reduce the liquid and skim off the fat and it’s done! It’s the lazy person’s version of Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon.
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
1.5kg stewing beef, cut into 2.5cm cubes
150g bacon, sliced into 1cm sticks
3 carrots, sliced
1 onion, sliced
18 to 24 pickling onions (I didn’t have these so I replaced it with 2 large brown onions, cut into 8 pieces)
750ml (3 cups) red wine
500-750ml (2-3 cups) beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
500g mushrooms, quartered
1. Making sure the beef is dry by patting with paper towels, coat the beef cubes in flour and set aside. Fry the bacon in some olive oil in a large casserole dish on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown. Remove from the pot. Add the beef cubes a few at a time to avoid overcrowding, and brown on all sides. Set aside with the bacon. Continue adding the beef cubes until they are all browned. Adding more olive oil if required, brown the sliced onion and carrots. Drain any excess fat and then return the bacon and beef to the pot.
2. Add the wine and enough stock to the pot so the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat so that the liquid simmers slowly for 3 to 4 hours or until the fork pierces the beef easily.
3. While the beef is cooking, heat the butter in a skillet and add mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes until they just start to brown, then remove from heat and set aside.
4. When the meat is ready, add the mushrooms to it. (If you want you can strain out the liquid first to make it easier to skim off the fat, but I’m too lazy =P). Simmer uncovered to reduce the liquid until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly. As the fat rises to the surface, skim it off and discard. If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock to thin it down. Season with salt and pepper but taste it first because it can already be quite salty depending on what stock you use. Serve with mashed potatoes or steamed/boiled baby potatoes. Or any other carb that takes your fancy.