Celebrating Julia Child with a home cook’s take on her classic dishes

Bon Appétit! In honor of Julia Child’s birthday next week (Aug. 15), it’s fun to make some of her classic dishes, and Eat Drink Indy’s Jolene Ketzenberger was up to the task!

Jolene says, “Keep in mind that Julia was all about home cooks; her recipes are detailed, but they’re not too hard for home cooks to manage. They’re not too cheffy. In fact, she has advice for using some conveniences products like canned or frozen vegetables.”

Today in our kitchen, Jolene shows us her recipes for making canned peas, pearl onions and mushrooms better — and then uses them to talk about her famous Boeuf Bourguignon!

Canned Mushrooms

“Canned mushrooms will have more flavor in sauces or garnitures if you follow the procedure outlined here. (If they are to be browned, drain them, dry in a towel and sauté quickly in butter an oil with minced shallots or onions.)”

For 1 cup drained, caned mushrooms:

1 tablespoon minced shallots or green onions

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons port or Madeira

In a small enameled saucepan, cook the shallots or onions slowly in the butter for 2 minutes without browning. Add the mushrooms and seasonings and toss them in the butter. Add the optional wine. Cover and cook slowly for 2 minutes.

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck

Canned Onions

“All the brands of canned ‘small boiled onions’ we have tried have tasted, to us, rather unpleasantly sweetish and over acidulated; they also need more cooking to make them tender. However, they are so useful in an emergency that we offer the following treatment which improves them considerably.”

For each No. 2 can of small boiled onions (1 ¼ pounds or 2 ½ cups):

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup beef stock, canned beef bouillon or mushroom broth

Salt and pepper to taste

A small herb bouquet: 2 parsley sprigs, 1/3 bay leaf rain. This removes some of the canned taste. Then simmer them slowly in a covered saucepan for 10 to 15 minutes with the butter, stock, seasonings and herb bouquet until they are very tender and the liquid has evaporated.

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck

Boeuf Bourguignon

(Beef stewed in red wine)

For 6 people

1 6-ounce chunk of unsmoked, unsalted lean pork belly (fresh bacon) or fat and lean pork butt or salt pork or lean bacon (pork or bacon is traditional, but may be omitted)

Olive oil or cooking oil

A large skillet

3 pounds lean stewing beef cut into 2 to 3-inch chunks and then dried on paper towels

A 4-quart flameproof casserole or baking dish

3 cups full-bodied red wine, such as Macon, Burgundy or Mountain Red

About 2 cups beef bouillon

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 to 3 cloves mashed garlic

½ teaspoon thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt as necessary.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cut the bacon or pork into 1-x-1/4-inchsticks; these are called lardons. If you are using smoked bacon or salt pork, place in a saucepan with 2 quarts cold water, simmer for 10 minutes, rinse on cold water, drain and dry; this is to remove the smoky flavor or the salt from salt pork. You will have about3/4 cup. Brown the lardons lightly n a frying pan with a little oil to render out the fat; this you will use for browning the beef.

Pour the rendered fat into a large skillet, adding a little oil if necessary to film the pan by 1/16 inch. Set over moderately high heat. When almost smoking, brown the beef, a few pieces at a time, so as to not crowd the pan; turn beef frequently to brown all sides. Place the beef, as t is browned, in casserole or baking dish.

Pour browning fat out of skillet, pour in the red wine and scrape up all the flavorful brown bits, then pour wine into casserole. Add the browned lardons to the casserole and enough beef bouillon to almost cover the meat; stir in the rest of the ingredients and bring the casserole to simmer on top of the stove. Cover the casserole and set in the lower third of the oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers slowly for 2 ½ to 3 hours or longer, until beef is tender when pierced with a fork. (You may simmer the stew on top of the stove, if you wish or use and electric skillet or kettle.)

The onion and the mushroom garniture

Do these while the beef is simmering or at any convenient time.

About 1 pound fresh mushrooms

½ tablespoon oil

1 ½ tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon salt

18 to 24 small white onions (1 inch diameter)

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon salt

Water

Trim mushroom stems, drop mushrooms into large basin of cold water, swish around for a moment, lift out into a colander and dry on a towel. Cut the caps into quarters and the stems on the bias. Heat oil and butter in a skillet until butter foam begins to subside, add the mushrooms and toss over high heat 3 or 4 minutes to brown the mushrooms very lightly. Remove to a side dish till need, then toss with salt.

Drop the onions into boiling water, bring rapidly back to the boil for several seconds to loosen the skins. Drain. Peel carefully so as to not disturb the onion layers; to prevent onions from bursting while cooking, pierce a cross a quarter inch deep in the root ends. Place in one layer in a heavy saucepan; add the butter and salt and enough water to come halfway up. Cover and simmer very slowly for 20 to 30 minutes or until onions are tender. Set aside, saving cooking liquid.

Sauce and serving

3 tablespoons softened butter

3 tablespoons flour

When the beef is done, set cover askew and drain the cooking liquid into a saucepan. You should have about 2 ½ cups; if liquid has boiled down too much, add a little beef bouillon. Skim off fat, bring liquid to the simmer and taste very carefully for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Cream the butter and flour in a small bowl with a rubber spatula to make a smooth paste. Pour several spoonsful of beef cooking liquid and blend well with a wire whip, then pour this mixture into the beef liquid. Pour in the onion-cooking juices and bring liquid to the simmer, stirring. This is now your sauce.

Add the mushrooms and onions to the beef, pour on the sauce, cover and simmer slowly for 5 minutes to blend flavors, swirling the casserole to baste meat and vegetables with sauce. The dis is now done. (If you are not serving immediately, uncover casserole; when cool, cover refrigerate and reheat later.)

Serve the boeuf bourguignon in its casserole, or arrange on a hot platter surrounded, if you wish, with boiled potatoes, noodles or rice, decorated with parsley. Accompany with hot French bread, buttered peas or a tossed salad and the same wine you used for cooking.

From The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child

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