Friday, August 24, 2012

Cooking Like Julia

As I mentioned on the occasion of Julia's 100th birthday (here), I've had out my "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", reading it for pure pleasure and inspiration. I have the Anniversary Edition, given by my loving son a few Christmas's ago. It includes a lengthy introduction written by Julia herself, toward the end of her life, as well as a section written by her editor Judith Jones. If you love to cook this is a must own cookbook. I was given "The Joy of Cooking" when I first set up housekeeping over 30 years ago, and while that book is invaluable as to the mechanics of cooking, this book is invaluable if you want to cook with style.
Yesterday, I prepared Saute de Boeuf a la Parisenne, which simply translated means Beef Saute in the Parisienne Style. The Parisienne style is apparently, with cream and mushrooms. This is, essentially, a French version of Beef Stroganoff and was written before sour cream was widely available to the home cook. 
Julia's introduction for this recipe praises it's quick preparation and the advantages of prepping ahead for serving to company. I totally agree that it came together very quickly, but must comment that it is not the prettiest dish I've ever prepared. However, having said that, I must also admit that the taste was ABSOLUTELY DIVINE! I had some beautiful, new potatoes, freshly dug by my step-father on his nearby farm, so I opted to use those, as opposed to rice or risotto. Julia mentions all three as possible accompaniments to this dish, and I think buttered egg noodles would work as well.
I used exactly the cut of beef suggested by Julia and made only one small adjustment. The original recipe called for Madeira, which is fortified wine from Portugal, or dry white vermouth. When I went to the grocery store, they did not have Madeira. I thought I had dry white vermouth at home, but I was mistaken: I had sweet vermouth, which is used in making Manhattans. The two can NOT be substitued for one another. SO, I googled substituting something else for Madeira and discovered what I believe was a good alternative. It's amazing what you can find on the internet!
The directions to this dish are very particular, a trait shared by all of Julia's recipes. She was first and foremost a teacher, long before the days of celebrity chefs! Her advice for drying the mushrooms and the beef thoroughly before cooking is invaluable to the success of this dish. She also specifically mentions allowing the foaming of the butter to subside before adding the ingredients, an indication that the pan is at the correct temperature to begin cooking. That's a great tip, especially for a newer cook.

Remember what I said? It's not the prettiest dish I've ever made! Let me also say that I halved this recipe, so the prepped mushrooms and beef pictured below are less than the amount in the recipe.

Saute de Boeuf a la Parisienne, served over lightly mashed new potatoes

Beef Saute with Cream and Mushrooms
First, prepare the vegetables:
1/2 lb.cleaned,  fresh mushrooms, dried on a paper towel( halved and quartered)
2 T. butter                                                                             
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. minced shallots or green onions
1/4 tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper
Heat a large, heavy skillet and melt the butter and oil. When the foaming of the butter begins to subside, add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and tossing to brown them on all sides. Add the onions or shallots to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes (I used sliced green onions). Remove the vegetables to a dish.

Next, prepare the beef and sauce:

Drying the cut beef, not too pretty, but necessary!
2+ lbs. tenderloin of beef; the tenderloin butt and the tail of the fillet are usually used, excess fat and white tendon removed, cut into pieces that are about 2" long and 1/2" thick, drained and dried on a paper towel
2 T. butter
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. Madeira OR 1/4 c. dry white vermouth OR 1/4 c. dry red wine + 1 T. balsamic vinegar (this is the sub that I found by googling, and I had both things in my pantry)
3/4 c. beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. cornstarch blended with 2 T. of the whipping cream
Salt and Pepper
1 T. butter
To Serve:
Cooked, slightly mashed new potatoes OR steamed rice OR risotto
Top with some fresh parsley for garnish or a few snipped chives

In the same pan you prepared the vegetables, melt the butter and oilover moderate heat. When the foaming subsides, add the prepared beef, in  a single layer. (My pan was large enough to do this but if you use a smaller pan, saute the beef in batches so that it sears correctly.) Season as you cook with a little salt and pepper. Cook the beef for only 3 - 5 minutes, so that it is browned but still rare. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside. Pour the wine and beef stock into the pan and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Boil it rapidly so that it reduces to about 1/2 cup of liquid. Whisk in the cream and the cream and cornstarch mixture. Simmer 1 minute and add the mushrooms and onion back into the sauce, for another minute or 2. The sauce should have formed a liaison (thickened slightly, Julia's own description). Taste the sauce for seasoning and add a little more salt and pepper if needed.
At this point, you can add the beef and turn it off and save the dish to be served later, OR heat it briefly and serve immediately. When reheating, cover the pan and heat only 3 - 4 minutes, being very careful not too cook it too long. You just want to warm the dish. The beef should be rosy red in the middle when you serve it. Add 1 T. of butter at the very end of the cooking, to add extra richness to the dish ( I eliminated this step, and it was plenty rich, believe me!).
Serve the beef in a casserole or on a platter, surrounded by steamed rice, risotto or lightly mashed new potatoes. Decorate with parsley or snipped chives.
Serves 4 - 6
Julia recommends serving this with some fresh green beans or peas. I opted for a salad, since I've got tons of lettuce in my garden. She also recommends a Bordeaux wine. We had a bottle of Pinot Noir, so that's what I served.
Bon Appetit!

No comments: