I have so many posts from Labor Day weekend. It feels like we did a ridiculous amount of stuff, but in reality, we didn't do very much, I just finally had the camera battery charged and so I happened to take a ton of pictures.
Oh, but we did go see Julie and Julia for the second time! Steven has been wanting to see it, mostly to "see what all the fuss was about." He liked it alright (and he also agreed with me that the way they eat the tomato bruschetta in the beginning is straight-up gross), but my favorite moment of watching him watch the movie was this:
[Julie Powell pulls a roast out of her oven and opens the lid.]
Steven: "What is that?"
Me: "Boeuf Bourguignon. Its like a beef stew."
Steven: "Mmm. Looks good."
So, naturally, I had to go out and get ingredients to make the dish the very next day. Opportunities like this (where Steven wants to eat exactly what I want to cook) are few and far between, so I had to carpe diem.
Or is that carpe bacon.
It is rare that a movie can really teach you anything these days. But this one did. Namely, that you are supposed to dry the beef in paper towels before you sear it, or it won't sear properly.
I sure didn't. And it did seem to help. Also, I channeled some Julia while I was chopping the onions. Steven said I needed to quit with the Julia Child voice because it was driving him crazy.
(I don't think my impersonation sounded much like her. I probably sounded more like the Swedish chef from the muppets. You remember him, right?)
"Bork bork bork!" Ha.
Anywho, where were we? Ah yes, the vegetables. I was following this recipe (mostly because she had the best pictures).
Once the veggies were good and seared, we added the meat back to the pot, along with some flour to coat everything and give it a nice little crust.
Then came beef broth and some fresh herbs. I have never cooked with a bay leaf before, mostly because I was afraid it might kill me, but as it turns out, that's apparently not true. (It can just rip up your insides if you ate it whole.) So, in went my first-ever bay leaf, and then the whole thing went into the oven!
As the beef was cooking, I made such fancy-schmancy things as: Oignons Glaces A Brun (brown-braised onions) and Champignons Sautes Au Beurre (mushrooms sauteed in butter).
Unfortunately they didn't look as fancy as they sounded.
(I didn't have any pearl onions. I know, it was a travesty. Bear with me here.)
But I did have plenty of fresh herbs!
The herbs were added to the onions, and I made the mistake of stirring them once I dropped them into the skillet. They wilted immediately and became quite un-pictureque. So I spared you a picture. Here's what the onions looked like finished:
Yep, brown braised onions. Not very glamorous.
The mushrooms were prettier.
And, again, here's where the movie (or, probably more accurately, Julia Child) taught me something else:
Don't crowd the mushrooms! (Do they look crowded? What does "crowded" mean exactly? They seemed to brown okay....)
So here are both of my "side dishes," the oignons and the champignons that get added into the stew after it has cooked.
After you take the stew out of the oven, you are supposed to reduce the sauce. And here is where I discover that I've been reducing all wrong. See, you have to wait till it actually does reduce. I'd just been boiling sauces for a few minutes, growing impatient, and just declaring "dinner's ready!" when the sauce is still just as thin as it was before I tried to "reduce" it.
But this time was different. I was patient. I waited, I skimmed, I reduced. And I discovered something....
Reduction is an amazing miracle of science. Instead of a pot of watery beef broth, I suddenly had this amazing thick and delicious sauce, which I then poured right over the roast.
And then I realized I hadn't made the noodles yet. Rats.
At this point, everyone had started to notice that something smelled delicious, and the mongrels came begging. Pringles specifically mentioned how much he appreciates fine French cuisine, and wouldn't I please give him a tiny bite? (I showed him back to his fine American kibble.)
Once the noodles were finally done, I dished up a bowl for Steven and I. (Judith Jones, sadly, couldn't make it to dinner that night.)
Steven sneaked a bite out of the stew pot, and then looked at me with wide eyes. "Oh. Oh Heather. You've got to taste this. Oh man."
And so I did. And verily I say unto you, it was the best freaking stew I've ever had.
And that is the story of how I finally vanquished Boeuf Bourguignon. (And now I clearly need to get myself a copy of that whole cookbook. If this one dish can be that good, think of what I must be missing in the rest of the book!)