Boeuf Bourguignon – A Noble Quest

We at the soon to be world famous SFH Test Kitchen learn from our ?infrequent? mistakes and failures. If you recall, in November last year we had a simply devastating experience with a sad excuse for a boeuf bourguignon recipe. In the course of executing that recipe perfectly in every detail, we wasted a bottle of excellent wine, destroyed a world-class piece of beef, and went to bed with severe hunger pangs and bruised egos. As I noted in Highlight 1 of our post SFH Journal: 2018-11-04 through 07:

Let me merely say that three absolutely essential ingredients were absent from the recipe: butter, bacon, and garlic. Butter starts my day, bacon lifts my spirits, and garlic makes life worth living! That wretched recipe has left me traumatized.

We are slowly and incrementally working our way to a “grand challenge” – perfect execution of Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. Along the way, we hope to learn why she chose certain ingredient options over others. Our plan is to attempt various recipes, each requiring greater skill and lengthier (more intricate and demanding) preparation steps.

For the second stop of our journey and noble quest we chose an “intermediate” level of difficulty recipe that only required a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes to prepare. That recipe was developed by Ina Garten the “Barefoot Contessa”. (Find the recipe online here.)

We followed the recipe closely, but modified some steps and made some substitutions. Because we are saving for a complete renovation and upgrade to SFH Test Kitchen facilities, we also incorporated some compromises on ingredients. This was not a matter of my “inner cheap” overcoming wisdom and common sense. Rather, it was a matter of obtaining good value at a lower cost.

The staff of the SFH Test Kitchen assembled at roughly 4:00PM to discuss our strategy and tactics. The entire staff was in high spirits and anxious for success. Beautiful wife reported that she had assembled all the requisite ingredients. I advised that all utensils and needed appliances were clean, sharpened, and in working order. Mr. Monte gave a thorough description on his assessment of ingredients. Using his highly attuned olfactory senses, he related to us that each and every ingredient was fresh and was of suitable quality. – – We were now ready to begin.

Following are notes, describing the individual touches the SFH Test Kitchen staff applied to the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe:

  1. We substituted 3 pounds of grass fed, grass finished top round, raised and butchered here in Rappahannock County. Because we had joined with two others buying a side of beef, the cost per pound on this world-class beef was far lower than if we purchased the meat at a market. It also gave us an extra half pound of beef, increasing portion size.
  2. We substituted fresh pearl onions in exchange for the two yellow onions and one pound of frozen onions. We did this because pearl onions provide a more pleasant presentation and they suit our taste.
  3. As a part of our cost-saving venture, we purchased the majority of ingredients, other than the beef, at Aldi’s. In doing this, we elected to use an Aldi Winking Owl Shiraz wine, at $2.79, over a more expensive Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir. The bacon was only $2.89 for a full pound.
  4. The recipe recommends using Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted and rubbed with garlic for serving. We chose Aldi’s fresh-baked Italian bread, at $1.69. We toasted as recommended, but did not rub with garlic, assuming that the garlic would be superfluous because it was already present in the Bourguignon.

It took the SFH Test Kitchen staff considerably more time to prepare this meal than the recipe suggests. This was due to our requirement that we discuss each step prior to execution and because we wash our dishes and clean our facilities as we cook. In that way, when the meal makes it to the table, we can enjoy it thoroughly because we know that there will be very little cleanup when we finish eating.

DSC_0756 (3)I will keep the results report short. The aromas were magnificent. The flavors exceeded our expectations. The blending of ingredients was quite satisfying. Although Mr. Monte did not partake in the finished product, he indicated that his keen olfactory sense was delighted with the outcome. It is also worthy of note that this dish stands up well to a night in the refrigerator and can make an enjoyable meal as leftovers.

In some months to come, we will resume our Noble Quest and prepare for the eventual challenge of preparing Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon. Until then, keep your butter chilled, your bacon sealed, and your garlic fresh!



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