I finally went today, figuring the dust had settled and preparing myself for a mediocre movie. I was pleasantly surprised and had an incredibly entertaining two hours. Of course Meryl was stellar embodying the Julia we all wish we would have known. In culinary school we 'cooked the book', much like Julie-it was our text book and many of the dishes in the film flashed me right back to Tante Marie's. But, the best part for me was seeing Julia's motivation on the big screen. I feel a connection with her thinking all those years ago, wanting to get people into the kitchen and cooking. Sure she loved to cook and was tenacious about learning but her goal wasn't to be a four star chef. She wanted to write recipes , perfect recipes, that motivated people to put dinner on the table. Forget the marshmallow fluff or cakes baked in flower pots (yes, a nod to the flick)-she was about the real thing and doing it right.
Most of us don't have time to bone and stuff a duck these days-this doesn't mean we can't still cook homemade food on a regular basis. Boeuf Bourguignon may sound daunting-it's not. Its comfort food at its finest and a dish you could make even without Julia's recipe. Give it a try...channel your own inner Julia and you might realize that cooking at home is as rewarding for you as it was for her.
Simple Boeuf Bourguignon
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups red Burgundy or Burgundy-style Pinot Noir
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 stalk Italian parsley, 1 stalk fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf ("bouquet garni")
4 cups good quality beef or veal stock
1 1/2 pounds peeled carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
Pat the meat dry then sprinkle it generously on all sides with salt and pepper (this is an important step-if you don't season the meat well your stew will not have the depth of flavor Julia would want it to have!). Heat a large stock pot or enameled cast iron casserole (a.k.a. "Le Crueset") over medium high heat. When hot, add half of the oil. Add half of the meat-just enough for it to be in one layer without the pieces touch each other. Cook the meat until well browned on all sides, 4-5 minutes, then remove the pieces from the pan. Carefully wipe out the pan, add the remaining oil and the remaining meat and brown in the same way. If your pot is not big enough to brown the meat in two batches, do it in as many batches as it takes-to really get that nice sear you can't overcrowd the pan. Remove the meat from the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and add the onions and shallots with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cooking, using a flat wooden spatula to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onion and shallots are soft and lightly browned, 5-6 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes more. Carefully add the wine, again using the spatula to scrape up any browned bits.
Once the wine comes to a boil, return the meat to the pan with any accumulated juices. Add the garlic, and bouquet garni and stir to combine. Add the stock and enough water, as needed, so that the liquid comes about an inch over the meat. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for one hour then add the carrots. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Discard the bouquet garni and taste the broth-season as needed with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow soup bowls, garnished with chopped parsley.