Monday, April 5, 2010

Just how do you pronounce Boeuf?

So what happened yesterday in Kitchen Stadium?

Baguettes and Boeuf Bourguignon.

Or Bread sticks and Beef Stew. Even though it's a little backwards, lets start with the Boeuf Bourguignon (even though I didn't!).

It's certainly not a mid-week whip up type meal. I started before midday. It's one of those slow-food recipes, which is fine by me. Food that has time to introduce itself to the others in the cooking pot tends to be relaxed (read: very tender) by the time it reaches the stage (plate). Making a meal with a slosh (or half a bottle in this case) of booze appears to improve that effect, funnily enough.

I did a bit of surfing to check out a few recipes, but decided in the end to have a go at Julia Child's recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. It requires 3 different recipes that get to share one pot right at the end. Brown Braised Onions, Sauteed Mushrooms, and the Beef stew. I decided to take the long road and started with the onions. On reflection, it would probably have been more time conscious to start with the stew, and cook the onions and mushrooms while the stew was in the oven. Next time.

Brown Braised Onions

You'll need:
20 (or so) small onions peeled
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup beef stock
1 bouquet garni, thyme/parsley/bay leaf

Start by heating butter and oil over medium heat. Toss onions to coat and brown over medium heat for about 10 minutes. The idea is to get an even(ish) golden colour to the surface of the onions. Be careful not to burn them, or roll them around so hard that they start to fall apart. Once you have the onions browned to your liking, season with salt and pepper, add the stock and bouquet garni, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer over low heat for 40-50 minutes until the onions are tender and the liquid has reduced. The picture on the left is just before I added the stock. And that's it for the onions for a while. Put them aside, covered, and move on to the next step.

Sauteed Mushrooms

Just a quick note: to saute is to brown while preserving texture, moisture and flavor. The most important points here are to have the oil/butter hot, don't overcrowd the pan, and get them out asap!

You will need:
500g button mushrooms
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Use small mushrooms whole, or large mushrooms thickly sliced, you want to be able to find them in the stew at the end. Heat half the oil and half butter over high heat, and when the butter stops foaming add half the mushrooms. Flip them around a bit to coat evenly. The fats will absorb into the mushrooms at the beginning and then come out again after 2-3 minutes. Cook for about 4-5 minutes all up, just until you achieve a golden tinge, quickly season with salt and pepper, and toss about one last time. Now get those little guys out of there! You don't want them to start stewing in their own juices. You want those delicious juices to stay inside, or you will end up with chewy remnants of mushrooms instead of plump tender morsels.

Once the first batch is safely cooling to the side, go ahead and do the second batch. You can do this in 3 or 4 batches if that suits you (and your pan size) better. And that's the mushrooms done.

Boeuf Bourguignon (serves 4-6 people)

You will need:
150g bacon, cut into strips, rind reserved
3 tbsp oil
1-1.5 kg cubed beef
1-2 carrots, thickly sliced
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 tsp salt
pepper, to taste
1 tbsp flour
2 cups red wine, I used a young Shiraz
3 cups beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 batch brown braised onions
1 batch sauteed mushrooms
chopped parsley, to serve

So start by putting your bacon and the reserved rind in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. This process stops the bacon from disappearing in the sauce. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly. Preheat oven to 200 Celsius.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium/high heat in a big oven safe fry pan or casserole, and fry bacon until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside. I used my fry pan because the fancy french casserole I own tends to catch on the bottom too easily, and I have severely browned (read: blackened) a few items in the past, when using it on the stove top. Anyway whatever works is the way to go!

Next pat your meat dry with paper towels, or in the event you don't have paper towels, use a clean tea towel, or just regular unprinted paper. It's got to be dry or it will not brown properly., it will start losing juices. Heat the oil again, and add the beef in small batches, heating extra oil as needed, browning for a few minutes each batch and setting aside with the bacon. When all the beef is browned, tip out out most of the fat in the pan and discard.

Heat the pan up again to medium heat and saute the carrot and onion until softened and golden brown. Add the meats back to the pan, and season with the salt and your preferred amount of pepper. You can always add more at the table, so keep it conservative. Sprinkle over the flour, then toss everything about to coat. Now put the pan/casserole into the oven for 5 minutes, then take it out toss everything around again and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Take out the pan/casserole, and turn the oven down to about 160 Celsius.

Put your pan/casserole back on the stove, and add the wine, and enough stock to just about cover the meat. (This is about where I moved my stew into the casserole pot, I used a little of the wine to deglaze my pan just to make sure I didn't waste any of the yummy stuff.) Stir it around then add the garlic, tomato paste, herbs, and the reserved rind. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and put into the oven for 2.5 - 3 hours. You want the contents to cook at a slow simmer, so check it occasionally to make sure it's not too hot. It's ready when the meat is tender, and easy to pierce with fork.

Take the casserole out of the oven, and use a slotted spoon to transfer the solids to a warm dish. Ditch the rind if you spy it, it's done it's job. Bring the gravy to a steady simmer on the stove and thicken it so that it coats the back of a spoon. When I read the recipe, this seemed like a crazy step, but I thought about it a bit and realised that it's the best way to thicken the sauce without the solids disintegrating in the process. I will probably adapt it to other recipes I cook regularly.

Now remember those tasty onions and mushrooms that were prepared earlier? This is their time to shine. Arrange the meat, mushrooms and onions in a serving dish, and pour over the reduced sauce. You can leave it as is, or give it a gentle stir if you like. Sprinkle with parsley, and dig in!

And dig in we did, and slept well we did, and forget to take a picture I did..........Oops. Luckily we had way too much and I have leftovers in the fridge, which I took a terrible picture of . Stew is not the most photogenic of foods especially when it's cold, and I am certainly a bad photographer, sorry. Anyway you get the idea, tasted way better than it looks.

French Baguettes

So the Baguettes were pretty awesome too! Actually probably the best bread I have ever made and possibly eaten! I followed the recipe at:

It only has the 4 basic ingredients needed to make bread, but involves a lengthy process.

You start by making a dough of bread flour (500g) and ice water (325g) that gets a quick 5 minute knead, and then an 8 hour sleep (well more like 6.5 hours because I am terribly impatient).

Then you:
  • add more water (50g), some salt (10g) and a little yeast (5g) to the bowl and end up wrestling a gummy mess for 5 minutes,
  • then you lest it rest again for an hour or so,
  • wrestle for 2 minutes,
  • rest for an hour,
  • wrestle for 2 minutes,
  • rest for a few hours,
  • then you divide up the dough and attempt to make 4 pretty(ish) lumps,
  • rest for 10 minutes,
  • then stretch them a little before a trip to the oven for 30 minutes or so.
And voila. Bread. Easy huh? Lucky I got so many rest breaks! Look good don't they?

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