"People who love to eat are always the best people." - Julia Child
"People who love to eat are always the best people." - Julia Child
I have always associated the great Julia Child in my mind with my grandfather.
Joe Hardin, or Granddaddy as we called him, was an engineer for General Electric, and upon his retirement, he and my grandmother promptly moved to St. Joe Beach from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. In the early 1970s when they made the move, St. Joe Beach was a tiny residential community, and granddaddy bought several lots along Ponce de Leon Street. They had a small home with a screened-in porch from which Granddaddy, a real renaissance man, in my book, would stand at an easel and paint. He and Grammy planted many trees and flower beds, occasionally assisted by my mother. Granddaddy planted a small muscadine vineyard, and eventually learned to make muscadine wine from his harvest.
Granddaddy took classes from Cornell University via what we now refer to as “snail mail,” because he never stopped wanting to learn, even in retirement. He taught himself to play classical guitar via a book and some records that accompanied it. He learned photography and film developing.
And he learned to cook from Julia Child.
Not in person, of course. Julia was a bit busy being a culinary superstar in the 1970s when he decided to learn to cook. He did the next best thing: he purchased her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She and her co-authors, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, spent years working their way through traditional French recipes, everything from the basic sauces to whole roasted pigs. Julia tested the recipes and reworded them in such a way that American home cooks could understand and replicate her results at home.
Granddaddy’s copy of the Mastering has notes in the margins, showing where he made this or that recipe, and telling how it turned out for him. One recipe that it appears he returned to frequently was beef stew, or in French, boeuf bourguignon.
There was much made of this classic French dish after the movie Julie and Julia was released. The modern day character, a rather narcissistic food blogger named Julie, was attempting to make boeuf bourguignon for an important publisher, and she fell asleep while it was simmering in the oven. Needless to say, it burned and was inedible. It made the viewer think that the recipe must be quite difficult, as it seemed a rather big deal to Julie to have to remake it.
On the contrary, I found, it is rather easy to assemble. Then it just simmers for several hours, so you can’t leave the house….or fall asleep….while you’re making it.
I made it for our family last weekend while my sister and I repainted my kitchen and dining room. The scent of the beef and vegetables simmering in red wine enticed us all afternoon. At dinnertime, I served it over egg noodles instead of with boiled potatoes or rice, but you could easily do either of those instead of noodles.
I hope this recipe will serve you well in the near future. It will be especially wonderful when it eventually becomes cool and you are ready for delicious comfort food.
Based on a recipe by Julia Child
4 ounces pork jowl bacon (or use regular bacon), cut into matchsticks
2 to 2 1/2 pounds chuck stew meet, cut into bite-sized cubes, and patted dry
salt and pepper
1 pound fresh carrots, sliced into diagonal chunks (you may find pre-packaged sliced carrots in your produce section)
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
2 cloves (about 2 teaspoons) garlic, minced
3 cups red wine, such as pinot noir
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 bay leaves
4 tablespoons room temperature butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
16 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
For thickening: 3 tablespoons plain flour and 3 tablespoons room temperature butter, stirred together to form a paste.
1. If the bacon is smoked, Julia suggests dropping the matchsticks into a pan of cool water, bringing to a boil, and simmering for 5 minutes or so to remove the smoky flavor. Then remove the meat to a clean, dry kitchen towel or paper towels, and pat dry. If you're happier with the smoky taste, omit this step.
2. Drop the bacon into a 6 quart Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed soup or stock pot to which 2 tablespoons olive oil have been added. Cook over medium-low heat until fat has rendered from bacon, and it becomes golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Remove bacon to a plate.
3. Drop the beef cubes in a single layer into the bacon fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If there is too much meat for a single layer, brown half the cubes, add to the bacon plate, then brown the remaining cubes which have also been salted and peppered.
4. If the pan is dry, add another tablespoon of oil. Then, use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up the browned bits that are remaining in the pan, to release the meaty flavor. Add the carrots and onions, and allow to cook in the fat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently as the vegetables begin to soften.
5. Add the garlic to the vegetables, and stir in.
6. Add the meats back to the pan, and stir in.
7. Add the beef stock, wine, tomato paste, bay leaves, and thyme to the pan.
8. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring often, and then lower heat to medium-low and cover.
9. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least an hour, up to two hours. The longer it simmers, the more tender the meat will become. Watch temperature under the pot so it doesn’t scorch. Add more broth or a bit of water, if needed.
To prepare the mushrooms:
1. Prepare mushrooms in last 20 minutes before serving: In a skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add mushrooms to the skillet, and begin to stir. After several minutes, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, toss to distribute, and then add mushrooms to the stew. Stir frequently to rotate the mushrooms. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
2. Add the mushrooms to the stew, and stir in.
To thicken the broth:
1. Use the butter and flour mixture, and form the paste into marble-sized balls with your fingers. Drop them into the broth, and allow to melt into the stew, stirring occasionally.
Serve the stew over egg noodles, rice, or boiled and smashed potatoes.
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph". She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.
She is married and has three sons who are considerably taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com, and she'd love to hear about your own favorite recipes via email at Steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com.