When I worked in TV, the rule of thumb at production meetings was that three examples of something proved it was a trend and therefore a story (one was a fluke, two was a coincidence, but three was a trend). On the basis of this extremely scientific and journalistically thorough (you reckon?) method, I am going to claim a trend in food and cooking saving people from midlife crises. So far in the last year or so, I have read a pile of books that all revolve around a similar theme: bored / sad / lonely person dives into new experiences with food / cooking and emerges happy / healthy / stronger and often in love.
And now this topic is making it to the big screen with the film adaptation of "Julie and Julia". While I haven't seen the movie yet, it is based on the blog by Julie Powell, where she spends a year working through the 500+ recipes in Julia Child's "Mastering The Art of French Cooking". The book is very charming and the movie should stay that way, since it is directed by Nora Ephron. Nora wrote one of my favourite foodie novels ("Heartburn"), a thinly veiled memoir allegedly about the collapse of her marriage to Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame, as well as directing a long line of romantic comedies.
To celebrate the release of the movie, this recipe for Beef Bourguignon was published in the most recent Food Network magazine, and comes from a French restaurant that was a location in the Julie and Julia movie. While I wish I could have travelled to NY to enjoy the beef in situ, it was warm and hearty and delicious for a cold Sydney night. Bon appetit!
adapted from Food Network
6 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped
1.25 kg stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 10cm piece celery stalk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup brandy
2 cups burgundy, cotes du rhone or other dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup pearl onions, peeled
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup quartered button mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a 6-to-8-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add the bacon and cook until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large plate, leaving the drippings in the pot. Pat the beef dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot in a single layer (do this in batches); sear for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown all over. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the plate with the bacon.
Add the carrots and onions to the pot and cook until softened and slightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, make a "bouquet garni": Tie the thyme, bay leaf, garlic, parsley and celery together with twine (nestle the garlic in the celery stalk).
Return the bacon and beef to the pot. Add the flour and stir for a few minutes until the meat is coated. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the brandy and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine; cook until reduced by half again, about 10 more minutes. Add the stock and bouquet garni; bring to a low boil. Stir gently, then cover and transfer to the oven; cook until the meat is tender and cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pearl onions and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and 1/4 cup water; cook until the water evaporates and the onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms; cook until slightly softened and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; set the skillet aside.
Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon. Let the sauce sit for a few minutes, then skim off the fat and discard. Return the meat to the pot. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms; heat through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley. (For better flavor, make the dish a day ahead.)