Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beef Bourguignon

I finally saw the Julie & Julia yesterday and like everyone else who's seen the movie I decided that I needed to immediately make beef bourguinon.
Its a great movie and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. It made me realize that the Julia Child I knew from TV: the crazy old woman who would comment on what other chefs prepared is not the same cooking legend. I really need to watch her earlier episodes. I also found myself identifying with Julie Powell, but after looking up her original blog I found that the real Julie Powell is not nearly as likable as Amy Adam's portrayal. I could easily see why Julia Child would not have liked the blog which was full of obscenities and negativity about life and yes, also cooking. Oh well, it made a good movie.

Now back to the beef or boeuf bourguinon. I didn't think it would be as difficult to make as Julie in the movie made it out to be. It seemed like any other braised meat dish. Throw some ingredients in a pot wait a few hours and your done. At the very least I though it was probably easier to cook than to spell. That was before I found Julia Child's recipe on her publisher's site. I didn't realize what a hassle cooking the french way is. It involves cooking every ingredient separately, using multiple pots and pans, putting everything in the oven for 4 minutes only to remove, stir and put back in for 4 minutes before doing some other tedious step.

The ingredients were simple: stewing beef, red wine, beef stock, bacon lardons, carrots, onions and mushrooms. Bacon was the only ingredient I wasn't so comfortable with. I don't like bringing pig products into the house. I don't keep kosher and will eat ham in an Italian sub out, but I don't cook it. So this was a conundrum. The recipe didn't use normal bacon, but unfamiliar bacon lardons. Turns out that bacon lardon is cubed bacon, and that the word "lardon" stems from lard. I was thoroughly grossed out, but finally decided that Julia Child's beef bourgenion would not be the same without the bacon. However, after simmering the bacon for 1o minutes before adding to the other ingredients I'm not sure how much flavor it actually added. If I made the meal again I'd leave it out. The whole recipe reminded me a lot of making french onion soup. Two types of onions simmering in beef stock, wine and thyme. Just not as good...

The movie made it seem like beef bourguignon is the most delicious meal on earth. With the time and cost of ingredients it took to prepare I was hoping it would be. Unfortunately, I didn't love it. I mean it was good, but it had a tangy taste I didn't care for. The boyfriend happily disagreed and devoured his meal. I'm glad he enjoyed because someone has to eat the leftovers. He even went as far to say that it's his second favorite thing I've ever made. I have to remember to ask what the favorite is.I was all set to go out and buy Julia Child's cookbook after the movie, but now I'm not sure. Cooking like a french chef takes a lot of time. It's extremely labor intensive and I'm not sure it warrants the results. An article in the NY Times says that a french home cook wouldn't spend 90 minutes cooking a stew that can be made in 25. I'm going to have to agree with the common people because I am just as happy to follow a Tyler Florence or Ina Garten recipe and enjoy a delicious dinner with half the effort.


  1. There's lots of episodes of The French Chef to be found here:

    There's a reason Julia is an icon. It saddens me you wouldn't consider buying her book based on one recipe. Boeuf Bourguignon is a special dish, not something to be whipped up with half a care in 30 minutes, which is why it was used for the film. Not all French cooking is complicated, time consuming, or uses expensive ingredients. In fact, much of it is quite the opposite. I would suggest you give the book a try, if only to know the classics and why this book and its authors are such a milestone in the history of cooking in America.

  2. Thank you for the link to the French Chef. Julia Child just taught me how to make a cheese souffle! Great show, I wish they still aired it on TV.

  3. Hi! I watched the movie last month and thought it was awesome, mainly Meryl Streep's performance. All those years of watching Julia on TV came flooding back to me.

    Props to you for making the dish, it really does seem labor-intensive! Love your blog (and title!!) btw :)


  4. Alison,
    Grandma Liz watched the French Chef show all the time. You know she is a great cook.
    Love your blog

  5. Love you Cous! This food blog is awesome!