Do The French Actually Cook Like Julia Child?

beef broth, bacon skin and herbs bouquets ready for the fried onions

This is my second attempt at making Beef Burgundy or Boeuf Bourguignon, the classic French dish made famous again by the 2009 movie Julie & Julia, bringing Julia Child’s cookbook back to the best selling list 50 years later. In my circle of friends and family, some have on their bucket list, the notion of taking a year to cook through ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. Power to you and let me know how it goes, as I decide to stick to my shortcuts.

My first attempt, I started by reading about 40 recipes online and creating what I thought would be the easiest version, using up the vegetables and red wine I had in the house. Throwing together the ingredients as if I were making a traditional stew on the stovetop, I then transferred the entire casserole to the oven for a slow cook. The meal turned out delicious.

A warning to the newbie cook, this Julia Child’s recipe is daunting to even the experienced cook, someone like myself that cooks each day for the love of it. For people accustomed to Rachael Ray style recipes or grew up with the Betty Crocker cookbook as I did, shortcuts make sense in our busy world and Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking may not be for you.

I received a copy of Julia Child’s cookbook on my 21st birthday from a letter carrier when I managed a retail postal outlet and sadly have not done much more than cracking a page to find a reference or on occasion I used it to flattened easy recipes worn and wrinkled over the years.

My question: Does the typical French family really cook like Julia Child’s or are these techniques saved for the trained chefs whom run the fancy restaurants in metropolitan cities around the world?

Coincidentally, my friend Julie, my mom and I tackle the recipe for Beef Bourguignon and only cut one corner. Step 25 seems too intimidating a task three hours in. We also added an extra carrot, did not crush the bay leaf but left it whole and fished it out after and could not find tiny white onions and used small yellow onions instead. I also believe that the whole smoked bacon found in France is not as salty or fatty as the North America version. When we cooked the slab of bacon out there was barely enough fat to fry the meat and vegetables in. Also in the end, I added the potatoes to the stew instead of cooking them on the side and added more thyme and a splash of beef broth to the stew to do so.

Julia Child’s Recipe for Beef Bourguignon 


?               One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon

?               3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

?               3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes

?               1 carrot, sliced

?               1 onion, sliced

?               Salt and pepper

?               2 tablespoons flour

?               3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)

?               2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock

?               1-tablespoon tomato paste

?               2 cloves mashed garlic

?               1/2-teaspoon thyme

?               A crumbled bay leaf

?               18 to 24 white onions, small

?               3 1/2 tablespoons butter

?               Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)

?               1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Cooking Directions

?               Step 1-Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.

?               Step 2-Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

?               Step 3-Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.

?               Step 4-Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

?               Step 5-Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp.

?               Step 6-Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking.

?               Step 7-Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides.

?               Step 8-Add it to the lardons.

?               Step 9-In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

?               Step 10-Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with ½-teaspoon salt and ¼–teaspoon pepper.

?               Step 11-Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly.

?               Step 12-Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

?               Step 13-Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).

?               Step 14-Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

?               Step 15-Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

?               Step 16-Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

?               Step 17-Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

?               Step 18-While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

?               Step 19-Heat 1-½ tablespoons butter with 1-½ tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

?               Step 20 -Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

?               Step 21-Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

?               Step 22-Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated.

?               Step 23-Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

?               Step 24-Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

?               Step 25-When the meat is tender; pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

?               Step 26-Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it.

?               Step 27-Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

?               Step 28-Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 ½-cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

?               Step 29-Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

?               Step 30-Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

My Recipe only has 7 steps and tastes virtually identical. I can now say that I did in fact try one of Julia Child’s recipes and am very proud of our cooking team: Julie, mom and myself included. Another ?tick off my lifetime bucket list. Next we hope to try Coq Au Vin. Depending on the response of this post, we may or may not tackle another one of Julia Child’s recipes.

I would not want to spend a year on her cook book unless my friend Julie and I decide to write the book, Mastering the Art of French shortcut Cooking

That’s Hamori!


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