Have you seen Julie & Julia? There’s a scene in which the actress who plays Judith Jones makes and tastes Julia Child’s boeuf a la bourguignonne. As soon as she removes the first spoonful from her mouth, she says “yum.” She takes another bite, does a little eyelash batting thing, and uses her hand to catch herself on the counter (presumably because she’s about to melt into a state of euphoric bliss) and exclaims more affirmatively, “YUM!”
Multiply that by about 100 and you’ll have something close to our own reaction upon making and tasting Julia Child’s beef bourguignon.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical, and initially unsure that this recipe that Julia describes as “beef stew in red wine, with bacon, onions, and mushrooms,” could be significantly better than any other basic beef stew I’d had in the past. Especially with all the extra work involved! All told, I was on my feet for almost 3.5 hours browning the beef cubes in the bacon fat…
…cooking the onions (and mushrooms – not pictured) separately…
…and letting the whole shebang bubble away in a dutch oven in my oven in a 2007 Cotes du Rhone bath:
But, boy was I taken by surprise. I served ours over some boiled Yukon gold potatoes and nearly shot out of my seat after taking the first bite. I couldn’t believe it. This truly was the best beef stew I’ve ever eaten, and I couldn’t decide which surprised me more: the fact that it was so far above any other beef stew I’d eaten or the fact that it had taken me nearly a year since coming into possession of Mastering the Art of French Cooking before attempting to make it!
If you’re looking for something fancy to make over the holidays (and you have a bit of time), find the freshest beef stew cubes you can find, pick up a bottle or two of your favorite Cotes du Rhone or Beaujolais, and look up the recipe for Julia Child’s Boeuf a la Bourguignonne; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this dish. Oh, but just make sure you’re sitting down when you start eating. I can’t be held responsible for, you know, any damage – however blissful – you might incur on your person or your stuff.