Beefily Yours: I am Delinquent (The Beef Eaters Club)
October 31, 2010
I sit here at my computer completely mortified as it has been so long since I posted and what I am about to post is from a dinner party ONE whole year ago. The text was written all the way back then, but here I am posting it now a year later. Since then, of the couples involved in the dinner party, one set has gotten married and two others have had babies! Things are moving fast, my dears, only goodness knows what is coming next.
The Beef Eaters Club
Several weeks ago, the Beef Eaters Club met for our quarterly beef dinner at my house. The beef eaters club is me and a group of friends from graduate school who decided earlier on this year that it was necessary to meet periodically to indulge in the consumption of beef. Since about half of us are unemployed or part time architects and the other half are employed architects (which isn’t saying much in terms of salary, if you get my drift), a quarterly meeting to indulge in steak and red wine is about all we can afford, and just about all we need, red meat and wine being items to be enjoyed in moderation. The kick off Beef Eaters Club in July was a small but delightful gathering of four of us at Les Halles in midtown. Our October club meeting came shortly after myself, Nancy, and Amanda had seen “Julia and Julie” (yes, you know where this is going) and coincided with a particularly broke moment for most club members.
We decided to stay in…
I’ll admit, much as I love “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” I have found some of Julia Child’s recipes a bit fussy in the past. Generally I do quite well with pastry recipes, but past experiences with her pâte sucre (sweet pastry) and her tarte tatin (upside down apple tart) have been less than desirable, with ponderous, heavy pastries as the result. That said, Nancy’s heart was set on boeuf bourgignonne, and having seen the reverence paid this dish by all the characters in the movie, we determined to enter this bliss ourselves.
Boeuf bourgignonne is bliss. We doubled the recipe and used three different cuts of meat and good slab bacon (lardons).
Jason and Nancy came over a few hours early to help prepare the dish, and… We followed the recipe almost verbatim (yes Julia, we braised the white onions separately in butter and wine… yes, the mushrooms sautéed in their own pan too… these are the extra steps I tend to cut out , but for this dish, you must keep the onions and mushrooms separate until that final combining just before serving. The result is a uniqueness in each flavour, which mysteriously blend into one beautiful composition at the end. Julia is brilliant…) The two steps I cut out: we did not soak or boil the bacon before sautéing it. I figured that 4 hours in the oven would be sufficient to break down the rind. The other thing we did not do is strain the stew after it came out of the oven. I mean, really.
By 6.30 when everyone was arriving, the aroma had traveled all the way downstairs to the front lobby of my apartment building. Beefeaters arrived, noses twitching appreciatively even before they stepped into the building. We started with my favourite goat cheese with thyme and olives as an appetizer, moved on to a refreshing winter salad with gorgonzola, pears and pecans, and then had the beef with herbed sweet potato and potato gratin, and sautéed swiss chard with pine nuts and golden currents. Dessert was a plum galette with hazelnut gelato.
By midnight, all the men had gravitated to the floor of the living room (I suppose lying prone allows more flexibility to rub your tummy appreciatively).
“It was a wonderfully warm night of cooking, collaboration and conversation. Sure, it was an involved recipe, requiring numerous pans and even more hands, but it was relaxing to chop and chat that afternoon in your big, beautiful kitchen. Over the course of the day, I enjoyed the simmering smells and watching the crowd of friends grow. And then, in a truly cinematic moment, we revealed the Bourgignon to a collective gasp and applause. After all the preparation and presentation, tasting the dish surpassed my expectations: the meat was succulent and so full of flavor; the tender vegetables maintained their integrity in the midst of that savory sauce. My only regret is that there weren’t leftovers.”
And bless their hearts, the boys washed all the dishes.