Boeuf Bourguignon (as part of a Julie & Julia Potluck)


Sorry for the late post – we were making rather merry last night. It could have been the copious amounts of French food and wine that knocked me out mid-post, laptop on my stomach like a heating pad. I woke up at 5am with butter sweats and my contacts fused to my eyeballs. This morning my jaw is sore – almost like it had been overused – got a boot-camp workout with me eating enough for a week in a couple hours.

So this is where, last night, I began:

Friends, behold something you’ll not see again for a very long time: my dining room table, set.
(As in, my dining room table is SET, not my dining room table set. It’s a Christmas miracle!)

All I can say is it’s a good thing I went to my Mom’s for brunch this morning, because when it comes to table dressing I am a total idiot. None of her finesse in this arena seems to have worn off on me at all. If I manage to pick up a few flowers and think to stick them in a clear vase full of cranberries, I consider myself extremely Martha. She sent me home with a basket of chargers, linens, matching plates and a vase full of dried flowers.

Although it did look lovely, and having W spend the afternoon at my sister’s may have been a contributing factor to my success, I’m not sure I could keep it up: this setting the table thing is kinda for the birds. Kudos to those of you who can muster linens, chargers and such every night of the week: it does add to the dining experience. (It also unfortunately adds to the cleaning-up experience.)

But let’s get to the point, shall we? The whole reason I put shimmery red stuff on my table in the first place? Our Julie & Julia-themed dinner party! Attended by some of my favourite writer-eaters: Pierre, Gail, Gwendolyn and Cheryl and their significant others. It was a potluck – which are making a comeback, have you heard? I heartily recommend them – people love to bring food, and if not, they can always buy stuff. It takes the pressure off you, and minimizes dishes.

I made – what else? Boeuf Bourguignon. In fact it was the very same Boeuf Bourguignon I made for that Christmas lunch on Friday I didn’t quite make it to – it sat covered in the barbecue for the weekend and was reheated today. That’s another great thing about B.B – it’s so freezable – and when it reheats you saute the mushrooms and pearl onions in butter right before serving, which freshens it up like a new coat of lipstick. In fact it was probably a good thing that the Boeuf Bourguignon was pre-made; I didn’t have a chance to get all freaked out that omigod I’m cooking for four food writers who will presumably be taking photos and then going home to write all about it. Gulp.

To be perfectly honest, I never really got what the big hoopla was about Boeuf Bourguignon. Isn’t it just a fancied-up name for beef stew, like Potage Parmentier is to potato and leek soup? Turns out it’s not. Boeuf Bourguignon is beef stew that really means it. That, as Molly might say, reaches out and grabs your leg under the table. Yes, it’s beef that’s been braised in wine and stock, much like stew, but it’s so much more than that. It’s rich and intense, and I think better if you ditch the carrot (I’d rather serve them alongside), which doesn’t quite fit with the earthy meatiness of beef, onions and mushrooms. Bourguignon (or any kind of stewing or braising, really) is also a great cooking method for bison, which contains far less fat than beef and benefits from a long, slow cooking time.

To rewind, after homemade Raincoast Crisps and French cheese (mimolette and triple crème) our first course came courtesy of Gwendolyn of Patent and the Pantry; Vichysoisse, or the chilled version of Potage Parmentier. I kind of took the wind out of her sails yesterday by posting about this – sorry Gwen! Hers was fab – smooth and creamy and delicious chilled even though it was 20 below outside. She even snipped chives on top.

Gail from The Pink Peppercorn brought a lamb-filled Moussaka with from-scratch tomato sauce that took her the better part of a day to prepare – and it was well worth it. (Truly, anytime anyone wants to spend a day cooking something that I get to eat? Totally worth the effort. To me, at least.) Her husband unmoulded it to a great deal of cheering – it slid out like a great glistening eggplant cake that Gail then cut into wedges and W, upon arriving home and having been promised a wedge of chocolate cake, stared disappointingly at before demanding “what’s THAT kind of cake? That’s too gross for me.”

Pierre of Kitchen Scraps brought Julia’s Ratatouille – a delicious mélange of peppers, onions, eggplant, tomatoes and thyme that was like a warm chopped salad, and I discovered after eating far too much in the way of lamb, beef and potatoes was delicious scooped on top of mixed greens. (You could in fact pack it into small ramekins and unmould it chilled onto a spring mix, and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette? Sounds kinda fancy?)

(Sub-par photos courtesy of a 4:30pm sunset.)

He also brought what was the simplest, least-fussy dish that a few of us may have described as the best thing on the table – Pommes de Terre Sautées – potatoes cut into teeny balls with a mini melon baller, patted dry (so that they crisp up) and sautéed in plenty of butter and oil until they transformed into what can only be described as the ultimate in upscale hash browns. Oh the crispy bits.

Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet was in charge of dessert – she outdid herself, bringing a Reine de Saba (chocolate and almond cake) with Glaçage au Chocolat (chocolate icing – also the very last recipe in MtheAofFC) and daringly pulling off a Soufflé au Grand Marnier (with Gwen as sous chef) in the kitchen while we sat around the table. Really, what could be more French? It was magnificent. We scooped it out warm, straight from the soufflé dish.

(Sorry Cheryl, it’s the only photo I got!)

Because Julie & Julia the movie isn’t released until Tuesday, and next weekend is Christmas party high-season, we watched old copies of The French Chef. But we had so much fun we may get together for round 2 once the movie comes out. It was a really fun evening, and an easy theme, considering MtheAofFC is available at the library. It was a great way to pull off a dinner party with little effort. For bonus points: make each guest do a dramatic reading of their recipe (in full Julia Child voice, of course) from MtheAofFC.

You’ll need a recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon – here it is. I’ve left the other recipes for the others to post. Once they’ve finished digesting.


Boeuf Bourguignon

Recipe link


December 7, 2009

adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child


6 slices bacon, chopped

canola or olive oil, for cooking with

3 lbs. lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (I used inside and bottom round)

1 large onion, halved and sliced

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 cups full-bodied red wine, such as a Chianti

2 - 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, mashed

1/2 tsp. thyme

1-2 Tbsp. butter

18 to 24 small white pearl onions, peeled

1 lb button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large, and left whole if small


1Preheat the oven to 450F.

2Sauté the bacon in a drizzle of oil in a heavy skillet set over medium-high heat until cooked through; transfer to a bowl (or the insert of your slow cooker) and set aside. If you like, pour out the bacon fat and add another drizzle of oil to the skillet.

3Dry the beef with paper towels (it won't brown if it's damp) and brown it in batches, browning on all sides - don't worry about cooking the meat through. Add it to the bowl of bacon.

4Brown the onion in the skillet, and then either transfer to a baking dish or the insert of your slow cooker; add the beef and bacon and sprinkle the lot with the flour. Set the dish uncovered in the oven for 4 minutes - remove and toss the meat and put it back in for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 325F; if you're using your slow cooker, you can turn the oven off.

5Stir in the wine and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. (I like to pour some of the liquid into the pan first to loosen all the delicious brown bits, then pour it back over the meat.) Add the tomato paste, garlic and thyme. If you're using a slow cooker, set it on low for 6-8 hours. Otherwise, cover the baking dish and set in the lower third of your oven and bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

6When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the baking dish into a sieve set over a saucepan; return the beef and bacon to the dish. Heat a drizzle of oil with the butter in a skillet set over medium-high heat and brown the onions and mushrooms until they turn golden. Add to the beef.

7Skim any excess fat off the surface of the sauce and simmer for a minute or two, until slightly thickened. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. If it's too thin, cook it down a little longer; if it's too thick, add a bit of stock or water to thin it. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then pour over the meat and vegetables.

8 Serve immediately over mashed potatoes or buttered noodles.


One Year Ago: (How appropriate that I was in Montreal!) Aubergine Pizza avec Brie and Stroopwafels


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27 comments on “Boeuf Bourguignon (as part of a Julie & Julia Potluck)

  1. the other Al
    December 7, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Holy Moly! That was some meal! I too have a complete weakness for French Cooking. I eat till I’m face down on the hardwood. Well done. I’m so glad I have foodie friends like you to invite to potlucks. I’m going to the you know what tomorrow morn if you care to join me.

  2. Karen
    December 7, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Sounds delicious, however, I have a problem. I am allergic to the sulphites in wine (react poorly to both the homemade or store bought varities.) So, my question is there something that can be substituted that won’t totally kill the taste of the BB? Any suggestions would be most appreciated. Thanks.

  3. Kevin
    December 7, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I’m in preparation for a Thomas Keller(french laundry) dinner, and hope it meats the success you guys had. 3 cooking parties, 3 days minimum per dish, seems daunting, but should be amazing!

  4. Barb
    December 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Good for you guys! It sounds like a great party.

  5. Lauren
    December 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Oh wow – everything sounds fantastic! What a great party =D.

  6. CathyD
    December 7, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Drooling! DROOLING! Those potatoes. Must do. I am sooo with you on the crispy bits!

  7. Pat
    December 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Julia would be so proud of you all! What a wonderful way to spend time together with fellow foodies.

  8. Penny
    December 8, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Undoubtedly an awesome menu(!!!) however you miss out on an imaginative part of entertaining Julie if you don’t also savour setting your table. The table is the canvas that sets your scene! Due to cost, the best bet is either: Solid white dishes on lively colored linens with coordinating napkins in varying colors, or, patterned dishes on solid linens. (Watch for sales.) As enjoyable as creating a memorable meal in the kitchen is, it is also a pleasure to set the scene in the dining room.
    A wee tip; whisk table linens to the wash machine as soon as guests depart, you can leave them soak in the soapy water over nite to release marks. Heck I even love ironing everything the next day ’cause I think about the dinner, the wine, the evening, the laughs and great conversation we enjoyed. Sigh, just had to share…

  9. Kathy
    December 8, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Wow what a meal.

    We have a weekly get together with a group of friends and it’s always potluck, it’s great! And not in a “organized, you bring this, you bring that” kind of way; it’s truly catch as catch can!

  10. Robyn in Mountain (Ontario that is)
    December 8, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Yes that meal is amazing, but even more so is that you have your Christmas tree up already. I’m going back to bed — too overwhelmed! :-)

    I’m making the Boeuf Bourguignon tonight! Thanks for the recipe!!!

    Love the Julie & Julia theme!

  11. Heather
    December 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Karen – I used to work in a wine shop, so am addressing your question about wine. Sulphites occur naturally in red wine, so are impossible to eliminate, but they are also often added to act as a preservative – some people with sensitivities say they can tolerate organic red wines, which are lower in sulphites (because they don’t have any more added). Lots of countries offer organic reds now; France has lots.

    If you absolutely can’t tolerate them, I would say your next best bet is a dark beer like Guinness. It won’t taste the same as stew made with wine, but there are lots of recipes out there for beef and Guinness stew.

    There’s also a prof at UCLA who has an extensive web page on sulphites at At the bottom he tells you how to use hydrogen peroxide to kill the sulfites in wine. He doesn’t recommend it, and I don’t imagine it would be great for drinking, but might be OK for cooking?

  12. JulieVR
    December 8, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    THANKS Heather! Sorry guys, falling behind on my comments here!

  13. Vivian
    December 8, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    I make my own wine, both red and white. I don’t use the sulphites supplied with the kits and I understand that that is okay as long as you don’t intend to keep the wine very long before drinking it. I’ve never had a problem with anything going bad and I don’t miss the headaches that I used to get with sulphited wine.

  14. Karen
    December 8, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Heather, thanks for the tips. Unfortunately I am also allergic to beer-I had Guinness once while in the UK and it made my lips swell and face go numb…think I’ll have to just pass on this one. :(

  15. Laurie
    December 8, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Karen, I sympathise with you. I cannot drink commercial wines because of the preservatives in them. Any commerically made red wine makes my skin break out in red blotches that are maddeningly itchy. White and rose wines don’t affect me as badly, but they still make me uncomfortable. My ex makes an apricot wine that gives me no ill effects (aside from normal alcohol effects, that is) and I once had very expensive champagne that didn’t bother me. I’ve found that organic grape juice doesn’t affect me as badly as wine (and the red has the same anti-oxidents as red wine). Beer also bothers me, but in a different way. So I use other things for cooking.

  16. Jenna
    December 10, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    What a neat idea to have a little party and every one bring something from Julia Child’s cookbooks. I loved the movie Julie and Julia and can’t wait to get her cook book.

  17. Lana in South Mountain (ON)
    December 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Just watched Julie and Julia last night and LOVED it!
    I am making the Boeuf Bourguignon on Sunday. All of these photos look yummy but, maybe it’s the Irish in me, but the potatoes made my mouth water. MMMM!

  18. Marisa
    December 15, 2009 at 6:55 am

    What a great idea for a potluck dinner. I like the idea of using a movie as theme. And of course all the food sounds droolworthy.

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