I belong to a reading group which has been meeting on and off for many years. We are about to launch into some of the so-called Metaphysical Poets… on Monday. I am doing the cooking. Since I am eager to participate in the whole project of reading and commenting (we have some very smart people in the group), I am today making an old standard which I can reheat tomorrow and will have only benefited from the day’s rest: Boeuf Bourguignon according to Julia Child’s version from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I’ve made it before, about a year and a half ago for the same group, so I don’t think they’ll be tired of it. And who gets tired of this stuff, anyway?
I often listen to audio books or watch a ball game during these matches with my kitchen. Today it was iPod plugged into my stereo with a mixed playlist including music for Archlute (by Piccinini – can’t get enough archlute!), Norah Jones (my personal research, confirmed by friends, is that women don’t like Norah Jones… I think I know why), someone named Adele (whose voice is both somehow grating and yet annoying at the same time and if her songs are an indication she has some serious issues), Kenny Chesney (because it’s nice not to think too hard once in a while), The Doors (talk about issues!), Chet Atkins with Mark Knopfler (GREAT album fun fun fun), Goo Goo Dolls (what’s with that name, anyway?), and a few cuts from Ultralounge Vol. 4: ‘Bachleor Party Royale‘ (to add a ridiculously cheesy component to the list).
My rather loose mise en place.
You prepare lardons from bacon, which will give you fat for browning the beef.
I used a Rump Pot Roast, about 3 lbs trimmed, and cut into 2″ pieces (more or less).
Dry it. I repeat… DRY IT. Don’t skip this step, as tedious or unnecessary as you think it may be.
When you dry what you need to brown, it will brown instead of steam.
I will need to sautée mushrooms later. These are pretty fresh as you can tell from the underside (still closed. After pulling the stems and cutting them on a bias, which looks better, I will quarter them. The great Roman Fabrizio, whom I mention on occasion, will tell you that you want to get all that dark “dirt” off the mushrooms. Really. You do. I’ve seen how mushrooms are grown, friends, and what they grow in. A small paint brush helps. This is tedious, but I think this is one of the reasons God blesses some people with children… or a potential supper guest who says from naïveté, “Can I help?”
I open the wine ahead of time.. you know… just because… because… gotta check it, right?
The lardons are done. Remove them with a slotted spoon… you must have a good slotted spoon to make your life easier with this and other dishes. Dry them.
When I cook for myself, I don’t much care, but when I cook for others, I wear a hat, so as not to share my hair with my table mates. Today’s choice comes from back in 2005 when I was a Fox New contributor, thus confirming the judgment of liberals who can’t not come back and read every word of this blog.
In your very large and very heavy enamel coated cast iron oval casserole, brown your lardons in some olive oil. You will remove the lardons and use this fat to brown your beef.
“But Father! But Father!”, you shout. “Tell us about your olive oil!”
Which I was just about to, ain’t I? So Preserved Killick would say.
This is from the Olive Press in California. I have had good results from their oils. They aren’t like the great Italian oils people gave me from their own trees, but hey! I’m 5000 miles away from there, there’s snow on the ground here, its -8Cº outside (for my Roman readers), and I am cooking with liquid sunlight. This is pretty fruity stuff. Very good.
Brown your dried beef. Dried I say!
Remove the pieces as they brown to some bowl nearby, in to which you deposited your browned lardons, and brown your veg: onion and carrot. I left the pieces of carrot large because I like ‘em that way.
Rejoin the beef and lardons.
Sprinkle with flour and mix through and put into a 450Fº oven for 5 minutes. Julia says 4. I think it needs 5, even 6. Repeat the procedure. When you take it out the second time, turn the oven to 325Fº.
Ready for the next stage.
Julia calls for some tomato paste. I always have a tube of paste for stuff like this, rather than a small can. You never need a whole can. Just to make it easier to combine evenly, I whisk it will a bit of wine.
Add smashed garlic (I used more than the recipe since our garlic is so anemic in this country… grrrr), your thyme (my own dried from the summer) and bay leaf.. leaves (again, it is anemic – I crumbled one and left the other whole, which I shall extract before the casserole rests the night). Add your wine, a Pinot Noir this time and beef stock, which I made another time and stored away.
That, friends, is how you do the first stage. Just bring it to a simmer on the stove’s top and then cover and put it in the oven for a couple hours. After about a half hour, check to see if it is simmering. If it is simmering too fast, turn the heat down a little.
The second stage will commence soon: mushrooms and braised pearl onions to add to the beef in a couple hours.
The adventure continues.
Time to prepare the onions and mushrooms which will go into the “stew”.
Olive oil and butter. Hey! It’s French.
Brown your little onions (I used frozen, which I thawed and then DRIED. Roll ‘em around occasionally. You will love these and will crave them and dream about them and want them with everything including breakfast cereal.
Not with chocolate malts.
I prepare a bouquet garni of herbs which I have kept growing in my kitchen.
It contains, bay leaf, thyme (dried, as before), parsley.
I add some beef stock.
Meanwhile, out comes the large casserole with the main event.
Strain the liquid into a sauce pan. Do this with a large ladle if the casserole is to unwieldy.
The onions are nicely braised after about 45 minutes.
A shot of the cookbook with the Slotted Spoon of Sabine Glory, which was a gift from one of you readers from my amazon.com wishlist! Thanks! You know who you are and I am grateful.
“But Father! But Father!”. Yes, I can hear you. “What is that?!? Is that a calendar page? It looks like it is in Italian. That’s your Vatican curial office wall calendar, isn’t it? Where c-c-c-an I get one?”
So, I skim the fat from the strained liquid from the casserole.
I microwave my sponge for 1:30.
After skimming fat and reducing the liquid a bit, I rejoined it with the onions and mushrooms and beef in the casserole.
Covered again, I put it in the garage next to some sunflower seeds for the Chickadees.
Supper was a rib-eye steak in the pan with the leavings of the mushrooms, butter and oil. Yum. On sale for $7/lbs!
Followed by espresso corretto di sambuca allo stile romano in honor of the great Roman Fabrizio, whose mushroom lore contributed to this meal.
I went down into the depths and the wine cellar, wherein I sought out an crate, an wine crate to be more precise, wherein I stored the Christmas Pudding. Alas, my correspondent in NY sent no holly for me this year. But this… this… will be dessert.
(PS: In the background is some Seignadou soap).
We have had the Sunday Monday supper after reading some poetry by Richard Crashaw and George Herbert, including:
PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;
Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner’s towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.
Here is the Christmas Pudding, unveiled. It is just out of its several hours of steam.
The beouf, plated with its accompaniments.
Yes, it was cut-it-with-a-fork tender. This was my best try at this so far.
The Pudding, plated. In the little pitcher is butter, brandy sauce.
The plate, by the way, had a little holly on it, which worked well.
Two of the wines, brought by a member of the group. Not bad.
Everyone was enthusiastic about this one, and so was I. Everything was just right! I mean, really good. This recipe by Child, when done properly, is pretty hard to beat.
The Pudding brings also another “slow food” dimension, harking to another age. A fine match for the poetry as well.
That concludes the meal.