Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hello 2011!

Today is the first day of the year 2011.  But, my daughter woke up this morning not thinking much about the new year. Well she is not thinking much about the past year either. She woke up today with the same enthusiasm as she does everyday.  She just lives.  Fully.  In the present.  That is what I am learning today from my child -- not to worry too much about what this year brings but that I just live each day.  FULLY. Of course, in faith that the Father will take care of it all.
Our 1st family Christmas tree surrounded with new toys
New Year's eve was quiet for us.  Ok, my eyes were shut by 11:15PM as I was t-i-r-e-d.  My daughter and I have been sick since Christmas day with cold and cough, so we have to have the much needed rest before the holiday ends.  I skipped the usual tradition of having food and champagne at midnight to welcome the new year but at least I had a bowl full of round fruits on the table for good luck.  I also skipped carrying coins in my pocket and didn't scatter any on the windows this year (supposedly for prosperity).  Yet daughter and I wore yellow shirts (for prosperity) and put on my polka dot red pajamas.  Red for love, the dots for money.
To make up for not making preparations for last night I made today's dinner special.  After all, today is the first day of the year, right?!  So it may be the start of a tradition that I will be making this dish every January 1st.  It entails a lot of work so that it will be exclusive to this day only. It was divine and really, it was worth a half day making it. Thanks to you Julia Child -- we now have a family tradition.

I followed Julia's recipe to a tee.  So, as much as I love the flavor of bacon and that I did not understand the reason behind boiling the bacon first before browning it, I obediently followed the procedure.  Honestly though I think next time I will skip boiling it and keep the smoky flavor.  I strongly believe it will make it taste even better. 

Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon fres thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small (or defrosted frozen pearl onions)
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry the boiled bacon in a paper towel, then brown lightly
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust)
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.
Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

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