Saturday, August 15, 2009

In Vino Veritas

It is done. Fini.
My first attempt at Boeuf Bourguignon.
And the results?

hmm...that's a hard one to answer. Do you mind if I take it one step at a time?

I intended to make this dish true to Julia Child's recipe, but things went awry from the beginning. First, I didn't have any boiling onions and I'd just purchased five pound of Walla Walla Sweets, so those went in, instead.

The beef browned nicely but I couldn't believe she really meant two inch cubes. (Two square inches? How do you get that in your mouth??) so I cut my meat into one inch cubes.

Finally I had the browned and flour crusted meat, the braised carrots and onions all nicely in my dutch oven and I reached for the BOTTLE.

Ah heck.
Guess what?
Wine bottles have corks.
*face palms*

Right, like a nice little Mormon girl keeps a corkscrew in the house.

After a ransacking three of the kitchen drawers, it turns out that somehow, I DO have a corkscrew! I have no idea where it came from and to be honest, the thing looks more like a medieval torture device, but it sure worked great on that stupid cork!

Glug, glug, glug, in goes the wine. Know what? It smells like vinegar. Yup. Just like the cheap bottle of vinegar I've had in the cupboard all along. Who do you suppose first drank this stuff and how desperately thirsty would you have to be to toss straight vinegar down your gullet??

Ah well, it's too late now. I've already committed myself, so in it goes. It is a pretty color by the way. Kind of wine colored. *winces*

Sorry, back to the story.

I'd bought a full bottle of wine because the recipe calls for three cups and three cups is right onto 750 ml which is a bottle - nice math, no? No. Turns out that I only used half of the bottle of wine. :( Don't ask me, I don't know. I only used two pounds of meat, instead of the three that the recipes requires, because there are just the two of us. And maybe my carrots were really small. Something.

Whatever the cause, I am now stuck with half a bottle of wine. I jammed the cork back in and suddenly I thought, where do I store this? I don't know! I keep the vinegar in the cupboard, and wine sits in wine cellars before it's opened. Can this stuff go bad? Is that even possible? I shove the bottle in the fridge just to be safe.

Great. Now I have a half empty bottle of wine in the fridge. With my luck the Home Teachers will show up tonight and through some twist of fate, feel a desperate need to look into my refrigerator. I'm doomed.

Sorry, back to the story.

In another departure from Julia's recipe I skip the bay leaf. (Don't care for them. Don't keep them in the house.) Ignore the required tablespoon of tomato paste. (Tablespoon? I'm supposed to open a full can just to use a tablespoon? And don't suggest substituting ketchup. My sister loaths the stuff and she'd have my head on a platter. So, no tomato paste.) No thyme either, sadly. I do love thyme but I forgot that we're growing rosemary in our garden this year, not thyme, so I didn't buy any. In a desperate move to have something herbal in the concoction I toss in a teaspoon of ten year old Bouquet Garnis from the spice shelf. I can hear Julia turning in her grave already.

Just as I'm bringing the stew to a simmer I had the sudden realization that I'm using a cast iron dutch oven, not one of the fancy ceramic casseroles, to make this dish. Will the wine react with the metal? Have I just made a witches' brew? Ah well, too late to worry about it now. I slam on the lid, put the pot in the oven, set the timer for two hours and head off to watch what turns out to be a very weird movie. During that time I can smell the wine cooking. I fills the house with a slightly astringent smell. Not really pleasant, although my sister says she didn't notice. I did, and I worried all the way through the movie.

Note: "The Tale of Desperaux" isn't all it's cracked up to be. My sisters says we should have watched "Galaxy Quest" instead, and I'm inclined to agree with her.

Once again, back to the story - or rather - the denouement.

The dish definitely was not Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon. I didn't bother to strain it, I just stirred in the extra onions and the mushrooms and we set to with a will. We were both starving. No potatoes, rice, noodles or bread, just beef stew.

The beef came out very tender, although I thought it a bit dry. Next time I'll cut the meat into two inch cubes the way I was told. But I'll add two or three times the carrots. They were almost the best part!

The sauce....
Truth be told, I didn't like it. Perhaps it's because I'm not used to the taste of wine, or perhaps the iron in the dutch oven leached out when the acid from the wine hit it or perhaps I'm feeling guilty. Whatever - the answer is I won't be doing it again. Next time I'll use a good sturdy apple cider, fresh out of the press. Yum!! The sweetness of the apples alongside the beef sounds wonderful! I'll even add a bit of apple cider vinegar if necessary, to tenderize the meat. But $4 worth of sour grapes. Nah. Don't think so.

Will I make Beef Stew again? Yes indeed! The techniques are wonderful and that's really what counts. But I'll be doing my own version, the way my tastebuds draw me. Rosemary and thyme, extra carrots and a parsnip or two. And a rich sauce with a hint of apples. Heck, I might even make dumplings.

Anyone out there want half a bottle of wine? It's nicely chilled.