Thursday, July 1, 2010

Recipe: Boeuf Borgiognongeonge

This morning I sat on the sofa and watched a Murray magpie figure out our window in our living room. This long glass window starts about 16 inches above the floor and runs up almost to the ceiling.  
            Senor Magpie perched outside on the long sill and swung his beak, experimentally, sideways into the glass.  It went "clack."  He looked puzzled, cocked his head, and tried it again - same result, so he walked a few paces further down the sill and tried there.  Still some impenetrable force field stopping him swinging through.  
            He walked a little farther, and tried again, then walked back the way he'd come in case the mysterious invisible wall had gone away back there, the whole time getting more and more ruffled and crosser, until he was just a big ball of cranky feathers.  Then he just Gave Up, threw his wings in the air and flew off in an indignant storm of black and white feathers.  
            A few minutes later he came back and tried it all over again.  He tried it yesterday, and then he tried it today, all morning, and he came back this afternoon to give it another go.

Mr Tabubil and I had another cooking class with Saul last night.  And he taught us how to make Boeuf Borgiognonge (however you say it. I get lost after four tries).
            I've had an existential sorting problem with the dish since I was 15 and my family visited Paris.  Dad reckoned that his long-ago high school French was flooding back, just flooding back, and marched us out of our pensione our first evening to find a traditional French bistro meal - brioche and Beef Buogeongong all over the place. He found us a nice little restaurant; we couldn't read the menu but Dad reckoned he knew what was what - and then the boeuf came as meatballs and the brioche as rice pilaf.  It was one of the nicest Lebanese meals I've ever eaten.
            Our second night in Paris the boeuf bollongong came as elegantly presented lamb brains and after that we gave up -we were caught up in the great European Heat Wave of 1996 and spent our evenings in our un-airconditioned pensione lying on our beds in our underwear under wet towels and nibbling exhaustedly on crackers.
I never did figure it out.
         The other revelation last night was the mashed potato - le Cordon Bleu style.  Which is technically a puree. Even less than a fan of beef stoo am I a fan of pureed potatoes (years of late night dormitory feastings on the pre-packaged soap-flake stuff still bring me out in cold sweats) but this was a completely different species of dish.
            We pushed the boiled potatoes thru a sieve to make a flour. We stirred in butter until the saucepan moo'd and then we stirred in milk until what we had was practically a cream. Whipped. 
And when we sat down to eat (dip a spoon into the puree, then dip it gently into the steaming stew and lap, delicately, with a folded tongue) the woman to my right sat up in her seat and said "My. This is a very - SENSUAL - potato."
            I took some on the tip of a spoon and tasted it and she was right.  It was... voluptuous is the only word for what it was, soft folds of white cream that swelled gently and melted in your mouth - light as clouds.

This is how you do it:

Boef Bourguignon with Pureed Potatoes


6 large desiree potatoes peeled (or other WAXY potatoes, ie. Ruby Lou)

100 g butter - finely cubed

200ml milk
White pepper and salt to taste

Slice potatoes into uniform pieces.  (To ensure that potatoes cook evenly, maintain a uniform size when slicing, and bring to a boil in cold water.)
Season a saucepan of cold water with salt.  Add potatoes and bring to boil.  Once boiling, turn the heat to low (so that the potatoes don’t break down into mash) and boil till potatoes offer no resistance to a knife.
Drain potatoes thoroughly - the enemy of mashed potatoes is moisture!  Once drained, put them back in the saucepan over low heat to dry out a little more. 
While very hot, press the potato through a sieve.  (Potatoes must be HOT when they are mashed – if you don’t mash and add butter while the potatoes are hot, you may as well throw’em out.)  Toss the mashed potato back into the saucepan to dry even further over low heat, stirring with a spoon.  Toss in cubed butter and stir like CRAZY until you have a paste.  Add the milk and stir further, gently at first, until you have a cream.
Add white pepper - generously.  Be equally lavish with salt.
Note: to avoid mashed potato sticking to the saucepan, use an aluminium pan. Aluminium may not receive the medical seal of approval, but the potato will never stick!

The Boef Bourguignon

1kg beef 
Rump, shank, osso bucco or brisket (if you're using rump, choose redder, darker meat)
300g speck or cured bacon, cubed (leave skin on)
1/2 cup neutral flavored oil
5 juicing carrots - diced
2 celery sticks - halved and sliced
1 leek - halved and sliced
1 onion - peeled and sliced
7 bay leaves
1 bunch parsley
1/2 liter red wine
salt and pepper to taste
300g white mushrooms
5 juicing carrots, peeled, chopped and boiled
1 bunch thyme
7- 8 bay leaves
1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
3 ladles beef stock

Slice beef into large chunks - 2 to 3 inches in thickness.  You may leave on the fat and sinew - it will break down during the braising process and add flavor.
Heat oil in skillet over high heat.  When the oil is sizzling, add the meat in batches and sear on all possible sides and edges to seal in the moisture.  Sprinkle generously with salt.
(Do NOT overload the pan; you should not be stewing.  If the meat is oozing moisture, either the heat is too low or the pan is overloaded.)
When the meat is nicely caramelized, remove it to a bowl and set aside.
Place the beef, onion, celery, carrots and speck into the pan.  Stir regularly until the vegetables begin to caramalize, then remove vegetables from pan and put 'em all into a heavy-based pan (a dutch oven is ideal.). and set aside
Over a high heat, add the red wine to the skillet and deglaze.  
Turn on the heat below the dutch oven.  Add the meat and thyme to the pan.  Stir.  Add the bay leaves, salt, pepper and tomato paste.  Stir.  As the tomato paste boils it will deposit a  sediment at the bottom of the dutch oven.  Scrape this up with a wooden spoon and redistribute through the veggies - it's yummy!  Too good to waste!
Add the warmed beef stock and the wine.  Stir.  Pop into a moderate oven and leave for 2 1/2 hours - until the acridity is gone from the sauce and the meat falls apart when prodded with a knife.
Press the carrots through a sieve to create a puree and set aside.
Quarter the fresh mushrooms.  Finely chop the parsley.
Just before serving,  reheat the stew.  Stir in the puree'd carrots (to thicken the sauce) and add the mushrooms.
To serve, spoon generous servings of cassoulet into bowls or plates and sprinkle with parsley.  Put a voluptuous dollop of creamed potato into a side bowl.  Eat by taking a spoon of potato and dipping it into the meat dish.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

No comments:

Post a Comment