Monday, 21 June 2010

Boeuf Bourguignonne a la Julia Child for 25 hungry people

Wednesday 16 June 2010 was Youth Day and we had an invite to go away for a few days with friends to the Underberg. They have a small piece of land with an old farm house somewhere between Nottingham Road and the town of Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg, near the Lotheni Reserve. Image stayed at Lamb’s oldest sister, Star and her family. Wednesday early we set out.
Beforehand I learned that we would be about 25 people going of which half would be students. We were also divided into groups responsible for feeding everybody. Lamb, myself and another couple (Cara Noir & Little King)got Thursday to take care of. I appointed myself as coordinator and decided that because of the cold expected in the Southern Drakensberg, we would need something warm and nutritious. I chose Huevos Rancheros (Mexican farm style eggs) for brunch and Boeuf Bourguignonne for dinner. Like so many others, I am inspired by the movie Julie & Julia. Julia Child + Julie Powel = Julie & Julia = inspiration. Breakfast was easy: 4 chouriço sausages chopped and sautéed in a large cast iron pot to which I added 10 cans of Mexican style tomatoes. As soon as the tomato & sausages started to simmer on the stove, I broke 25 eggs into the pot. I then put everything into a hot oven. Once the whites set, but yolks were still runny, I put grated cheese and nachos over. Maybe not authentic Huevos Rancheros, but still really very good, and easy if you have to feed many. It went down very well anyway.
Main attraction though, was dinner. I have never attempted Boeuf Bourguignonne, but I knew Julia Child would not disappoint. My only two worries were to achieve success having to increase the recipe 4 times as well as doing so in the slightly primitive kitchen (small Univa gas stove). So after spending a leisurely day trying my hand at fly-fishing and lounging around with Lamb like dassies on the rocks seeking out the sun, I was ready to impress.
Starting off with the preparation, I decided that the students also must earn their keep and asked them to peel and chop 5 large onions for me and also peel the 60 odd small pickle-sized onions which I would require. The girls set off with gusto, till their eyes started tearing up. Very ingeniously, they got the male students to part with their quad-bike goggles, which solved the crying problem. Following then the ingredients and my adapted method for Boeuf Bourguignonne for 25 hungry people: 600 g pancetta (ordinary bacon gives too much of a smoky taste. Nice in other dishes, but not this one) olive oil – lots butter – lots 5 large onions 60 small pickle sized onions 2 kg button mushrooms vegetable sprinkle (because I forgot to pack the carrot) 4 tsp salt 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper no flour – because I forgot to pack it. 7 kg mature rump cut in 4x2 cm cubes 3 bottles red wine 250 ml strong beef stock x 2 (for preparing meat & onions respectively) 4 table spoons tomato paste 8 cloves of garlic mashed 2 tsp thyme 2 tsp tarragon (not in original recipe) 5 crumbled bay leaves Sauté pancetta in a little olive oil till done. (I used a very large cast iron pot). Keep pancetta aside. Then start browning the cubes of rump steak in batches. This takes forever. Cara Noir is also a very good cook and she assisted with the browning of the meat. Add more oil after each 3-4 batches. One of Julia Child’s best tips however is to dry the meat with kitchen paper – it browns much easier and quicker. I transferred the browned meat and pancetta to a very large stainless steel oven roaster – biggest vessel I could lay my hands on.
Once all the meat is browned, sauté the 5 large chopped onions in the same whatever pot, saucepan etc. you’ve browned the meat in. Add the wine, seasoning, herbs, tomato paste, garlic & stock to the onions to deglaze the pan. Pour over the meat. Since the roaster wouldn’t fit into the small little gas oven, I put it over two of the burners on the stovetop. The stove was a bit dodgy with (it seemed to me) only two settings – hellfire and slow-cooker, but I managed to keep the dish at a simmer and the meat was perfectly tender after 3 hours. In the meanwhile I brown braised the small onions in stock in the oven and sautéed the mushrooms in butter as per Mrs. Child’s instructions. This involves sautéing the whole onions in butter. Add a bay leaf and thyme and beef stock. Braise the onions till brown and most of the liquid evaporated. Sauté the mushrooms in butter as well and season. By that time, the aromas from the kitchen was driving everyone mad and the people were literally drooling. The older people were sitting around the fireplace in the lounge and the students had a big bonfire going outside. I was drunk on red wine, coffee flavoured tequila, stroh rum, gluhwein and whatever else the people brought into the kitchen to appease the cook. With all the appeasing, I floated on a cloud of bonhomie. During the last half hour I was badgered constantly...when are we eating, when are we eating, but the 25 large potatoes took forever to cook. All that remained to do was add the mushrooms & onions to the meat and... voila! I served the Boeuf Bourguignonne with boiled buttered & parsley potatoes and peas. The whole meal came out fantastically good. To quote Julia Child: “Carefully done and perfectly flavoured, [Boeuf Bourguignonne] is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man,...” I received so many compliments that I started blushing, or was that drinking sherry and sitting too close to the fireplace? Cara Noir took care of dessert. She stewed home-bottled peaches in Cointreau and served that with mascarpone cheese and toasted almonds. Bon appétit!


Tamara said...

I love that part of the world! Spent a lot of time there when I was in high school.

I love the image of the chicks peeling onions with goggles on!

Spear The Almighty said...

I shouldn't read you blog when I feel hungry. :)