Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon – Splendid Perfection

Without question, this is the single best beef dish I have ever made in my life.

You have to hand it to the French.

Their culinary contributions are on par with America’s moon landing. The cooking methods they introduced to the world moved the human race forward in a positive direction.

I took pleasure last night in serving Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon to my family and a close friend on an otherwise damp and dreary day. Nothing in the world can lift one’s spirits higher than a killer bottle of wine (or two) and this fantastic French dish.

I had some help of course, so I dialed into Jamie Tracey’s YouTube video (@AntiChefJamie) and Tablespoon.com. Yes, I’m a novice so I needed two websites to cross-check the process.

It starts with a giant hunk of chuck steak.

This represents one of the toughest cuts of beef, located in the shoulder region of the animal. These muscles and tendons are in constant use, which explains the cost: $25. This yielded enough food for 6 to 8 people—which compared to other cuts of meat—is a steal. I paid $38 dollars a few days prior for a pound of scallops, which likely made my stingy mother turn over in her grave. Sorry about that mom!

A sharp knife is a must. I cut the chuck down to 1 ½ inch cubes, a tad smaller compared to the recipe. Yes, I wielded the blade with precision to eliminate the ½ pound of fat, which provided me with some redemption but don’t kid yourself—this is not a dish to consume prior to seeing your doctor. And for God’s sake, keep your cardiologist in the dark!

Here are a few preliminary steps that date back to ancient French kitchens and appear to make no sense but… are required to complete the meal. You have to simmer slivers of bacon for five minutes in water, then brown it in a dutch oven. This is followed next by browning the meat, followed by carrots and bacon.

Crazy step #2: After the veggies are cooked, you sprinkle in salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of flour. The dutch oven is then placed in a 450-degree oven for four minutes. The cook has to remove it, toss it all around, then repeat for another four minutes.

Who’s the crackpot chef that came up with four minutes… times two? Yes, this is Julia Child’s dish, but she learned this technique when she studied in France. I want to know who the hell came up this concept!

I skipped this particular step the first time I made it, and as ludicrous as it sounds, doing so made a fantastic difference. It’s a unique take on a roux, which is typically used in meat/sauce dishes as it thickens the natural juices and ingredients. But for Christ’s sake… four minutes?

Things took a turn for the worse because as usual, I underestimated how long the meal would take to cook. When you and your wife are both hyperglycemic, nerves get frazzled. Our wonderful guest, Mary Grace, played exploding kittens with my eight-year-old son while the dish cooked for three hours.

An hour from completion, the recipe calls for browning and sauteing pearl onions in a bath of butter and beef broth. However, the cook is required to create a ‘herb bouquet.’ You can’t make this up—thyme, parsley and a bay leaf must be strung together and it is then placed in the simmering pan. Forty minutes later, the browned onions are put to the side, all contents from the pan are discarded, and then a pound of quartered mushrooms are sauteed.

What’s next in Julia Child’s book—a cooking process that requires stewing a dozen roses? Come on!

But… feast your eyes on the prize. After three hours of cooking (@325 degrees), the reveal is nothing short of breathtaking. I kid you not, the aromas that lift from the confines of the dutch oven will overwhelm your senses. It is pure magic… which is why I cook, why anyone should cook, and why you have to try this recipe.

I sprinkled in parsley and served it on a bed of wide noodles. It is divine and one of the most satisfying dishes on the planet. There’s a reason who Julia Child kicked off her PBS series (the pilot) with this dish. As frustrating as the recipe can be at times, it’s all worth it.

This brings me back to the French: Magniqifue! This is by far the single best beef dish I have ever made.

If I had the choice of either walking on the moon or traveling to France to take culinary classes, I’ll take the classes six days a week and twice on Sunday.

Links to learn how to cook:

Jamie Tracey’s YouTube video


Julia Child’s book, The Art of French Cooking (Amazon)

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