Yesterday, for the better part of the afternoon, Zach and I miraculously managed to prepare the perfect beef bourguignon - Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon, of course. Amidst all the hype, both long standing and delightfully film induced, it's possible to become a bit skeptical, even of something as integral to foodies as a signature dish from Julia's cookbook. Yet, while few things do truly live up to excessive hype, we discovered that this particular bit of magic, Julia's Beef Bourguignon, far exceeds even the most loquacious accolades it has received. I can even attest to the fact that a gorgeous vegetarian version can be created using tempeh, as my mother has treated us to Tempeh Bourguignon on more than one of our many Savannah jaunts.
As Julia is such a vivid figure for anyone who has ever seen her flip an omelet on television or poured rapturously over her canonical text, I find myself wondering what Julia would think of tempeh bourguignon. Would she be offended at such a drastic altering of her recipe, or would she delight in the spirit of culinary ingenuity? As I can never know, I can only hope for the latter as I puttered about in the kitchen, even though today we did fix her original recipe for a cherished Easter dinner before Zach had to return to South Georgia for another week of clinical rotations.
It seems nearly every foodie has a particular fondness for something about Julia's irrepressible style. Personally, I am drawn to a seemingly inconsequential facet of her recipes, tucked in amidst the instructions for melting butter and creating a bouquet garni - the generous sprinkling of adverbs. Here, my belief that recipes aren't merely just a list of instructions, but rather a living text, a narrative of experience, is truly epitomized. When cooking with Julia, one doesn't just add two tablespoons of flour, one should "sprinkle on the flour... to coat lightly." One should "simmer slowly," and "brown nicely." Naturally, these are necessary instructions regarding the degree to which one should caramelize or dust with flour, but they also inspire a sense of personality, an element of care and tenderness, which, truly, is integral in the attempt to elevate ingredients into art.
I do confess that I also, without fail, have a somewhat comedic response to Julia's recipes upon the first reading - I tend to hyperventilate, shuffle through the pages and pages of instructions with a growing sense of panic and impossibility, and then gradually, upon the third or fourth reading, begin to realize that the task at hand really isn't unattainable after all. I often resort to committing the methods to memory, ultimately looking through the ingredients list alone during the actual cooking process and thus preventing another onset of paralyzing trepidation while, say, browning the onions or tying up the parsley.
I've included our vegetarian-friendly, Tempeh Bourguignon version here... There's also a fabulous reprinting of Julia's original Beef Bourguignon recipe available online. Whichever version you prefer, I encourage everyone to set aside an entire day, yes, an entire, glorious day, and celebrate the magic that comes forth from a casserole dish and a bottle of "young, full-bodied wine!"
Inspired by Julia Child
6 oz "sausage style" soy crumbles, such as Morningstar Farms brand
3 T olive oil
3 pounds tempeh, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 T flour
3 cups red wine
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
1 lb small pearl onions
1 1/2 T butter
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter
teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
Cooked brown rice or whole wheat pasta
~ Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
~ In a large dutch oven over medium heat, brown the "sausage style" soy crumbles in 1 T olive oil. Remove, and set aside.
~ Add the remaining 2 T olive oil to the dutch oven, and brown the tempeh cubes well on each side. Remove, and set aside.
~ Saute the carrot and onion in the same dutch oven until the onion is limp and translucent, adding a bit more olive oil if necessary.
~ Add the soy crumbles and the tempeh to the onion mixture, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
~ Reduce the heat to low, sprinkle in the flour, and toss gently to coat. Allow the mixture to brown lightly for 4 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
~ Stir in the wine, broth, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and crumbled bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover, transfer to the oven, and allow to simmer very gently in the oven for 1 to 2 hours.
~ After an hour or so, prepare the onions - in a large skillet, melt the 1 1/2 T butter and 1 1/2 T olive oil over medium heat, add the pearl onions, and saute gently, taking care not to disturb the outer layers of the onions, until the onions are well browned. Add the 1/2 cup broth and the herb bouquet, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for 1/2 hour.
~ Just before serving, transfer the dutch oven back to the stove top and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced just a bit.
~ While the liquid is reducing, prepare the mushrooms - in another skillet, melt the 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil over medium high heat, add the mushrooms, and saute, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms just begin to brown.
~ Remove and discard the herb bouquet. Add the onions and the mushrooms to the dutch oven, and stir gently.
~ Serve warm, over brown rice or whole wheat pasta!
On the blog this time last year... Asparagus and Barley Risotto!