Yes, of course I took the recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book, in two volumes, was a gift from my journalist sister Dina when I visited her in Calgary. The sales lady had to search the store for the complete set because there’s been a run on Volume I since the Julia and Julia movie was released. Well, I wanted both books, to work my way slowly through the kashrut-adaptable recipes. Which might take years.
Meantime, I’m with boeuf. It’s a handsome dish for Shabbat or a major holiday like Rosh HaShanah, and I’m thinking that substituting fine (cake) matzah meal for the flour, it will be an excellent dish to serve on Passover.
Julia Child would have OK’d the changes I made to her recipe, I think. Reading her autobiographical My Life in France, a sense of her warmth and humanity rises from the pages like the scent of good cooking. I’m sure she understood about kosher dietary restrictions. And after all, that’s how Jewish cuisine evolves, by adapting local recipes to kosher standards.
If you want to be historically accurate, boeuf bourguignon must be cooked with bacon. That’s no option for kosher cooks, but there is an umami-contributing alternative: shmaltz. (Here’s how to make that wonderful, fragrant, old-world shmaltz.)
Other flavorful ingredients in this potchkeyed recipe include soy sauce and dried mushrooms. More garlic than Julia called for, but then, I must have a constant high level of garlic in my bloodstream or I start feeling…pale. Or something.
- Use beef with some fat running through the flesh. I buy shoulder. Here in Israel it’s the no. 5 cut.
- While Julia’s recipe instructs you to drain the bacon fat, I find that you should keep the shmaltz to brown the vegetables. The dish is not at all greasy, although you can certainly draw a couple of paper towels over the surface when it’s done to get rid of fat.
- I use an entire bottle of dry red wine as the cooking liquid. The classic recipe calls for veal stock but since I cook so little beef, I don’t keep it around. Sometime, I might try chicken or turkey stock, but meantime, wine makes a rich, flavorful sauce. Only dry red wine, please, and while it shouldn’t be plonk, it shouldn’t be an expensive bottle either. (Israelis -most Segel brand wines are inexpensive yet drinkable – I usually use one of those or another in a comparable price range.)
- I don’t strain the sauce, although maybe I should. Nobody’s complained yet.
- If you leave the soy sauce out and substitute fine (cake) matzah flour, this is an impressive and easy dish to serve on Passover.
- Alright, so I usually leave out the classic fresh sautéed mushrooms and cooked whole small onions that go into the pan almost just before serving. But if you want to, cook 18-24 pearl onions in stock and sauté 500 grams – 1 lb. fresh, thickly sliced mushrooms in olive oil. Add them to the pan after step 7.
What I can say is that everyone who eats this dish likes it. And after you’ve made it once, you’ll see how easy it is. Putting it together takes maybe half an hour, then the oven does all the work. It’s delicious re-heated too.
Kosher Bœuf Bourguignon
printable version here
1 kg. – 2.2 lbs. beef, cut into large cubes
2 tablespoons shmaltz
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour or fine matzah meal
1 750-ml. bottle of dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dried, sliced Porcini or other mushrooms
1 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 450° F – 220° C.
1. Pat the beef chunks with paper towels to dry surface moisture.
2. In a large, heavy pan, melt the shmaltz. Add the olive oil. Let the fats get quite hot.
3. Sauté the beef chunks in the hot fat, a few at a time. Turn them over so that all sides brown.Remove the browned beef from the pan to a platter. I use tongs for this.
4. Sauté the onion and carrot in the same pan for about 5 minutes. Return the beef to the pan and sprinkle salt and pepper over everything. Mix with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the flour over all and mix again.
5. Put the uncovered pan in the oven for 5 minutes. Mix the meat and brown it again for another 5 minutes. Place the pan on the stovetop, over medium heat, and turn the oven down to 325° F – 160°C.
6. Pour the wine into the beef and vegetables. Add tomato paste, garlic, soy sauce, and dried mushrooms. Stir to dissolve the tomato paste. Simmer the stew for 5 minutes. Place the bay leaves and thyme on top of the beef and push them in a little with a spoon so that they flavor the cooking liquid.
7. Cover the beef and put it in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, then check to see if it’s fork-tender. Let it cook 1/2 hour longer if needed. When you judge it’s ready, take the stew out of the oven and skim the fat off if liked. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Add optional onions and fresh mushrooms now.
Garnish the stew with a little parsley and serve with plain boiled potatoes, rice, or noodles. Mighty good.