Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 299

Having a birthday without the woman who gave birth to you, is a confounding experience.

It's like a chill that creeps up your spine and raises your hairs on end. One of those emotions that does not shy from physical expression. A feeling that penetrates the body's very reflex engine. A multitude of tiny lightening bolts through your nerve endings that leaves your fingers cold and stiff. 

Not that it's an entirely negative experience, though we certainly associate it that way. "Someone just stepped over my grave," many recite at such a moment. Facing mortality is also facing eternity. All of that to say, I've had those chills all day. 

Last year, for her birthday, Mom and I launched a joint blog called: Little Chicken Face. It was an attempt to record our weekly cooking ventures together. We only managed to complete the one post. So,  for my birthday, I wanted to share with you one of her birthdays:

Little Chicken Face:

Wednesday, April 27, 20

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

One of these days, I'll be able to spell out Boeuf Bourguignon without looking on Google first. Still, it seems fitting that this journey, well the telling of it anyway, begin with one of the most classic dishes by one of the most iconic chefs.

My mother and I love to cook together. And, we do so every week. The catch is: she's in Woodside, CA and I'm in Seattle, WA. We began a tradition some time last year of making the same recipe on the same night, every Thursday (well, as often as we can manage it).

There are two simple guidelines in choosing the recipes:

1 - We take turns choosing.

2 - It must be something we've either never made before, or include a culinary technique we've not yet explored. In other words, it has to stretch us.

As it happens, for two modest house cooks, we're quite at home in the kitchen. So, these recipes are an endeavor to enhance our cooking ability, but moreso, to bring us together. Although, we've made it a priority to visit quarterly and we talk almost daily, these nights cooking together almost feel like we're standing side by side.

As you may have guessed, my mother and I are very close. Without question or exaggeration (thought I'm prone to both), it is the most formative relationship of my life. She is my idol, my hero, my friend and (prepare for a little Divine Miss M) the wind beneath my wings.

This blog is my birthday gift to my mother, Denise M. Green. (I dare you to ask her what the "M" stands for). In it, both she and I will talk through the recipes, share our successes and failures, our tweeks and flubs. So, without further ado...

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

It must be said that the recipe we followed wasn't the authentic original recipe as written in Julia'sMastering the Art of French Cooking. Instead, we used the one from Oprah's website. No particular reason; it's just what I found to be the most comprehendable.

Right off the bat, we had to make a small change. Bacon Rind. Apparently, there's a long gone tradition of trimming the bacon rind off slabs of bacon, blanching it, frying it and adding it to the stew. Alas, alack, even my local butcher didn't have any on hand. My mom had the same difficulty. So, we both settled for some smoky, delicious thick cut bacon.

You'll find when it comes to fatty, creamy, rich goodness in all the foods Jenny Craig keeps out of your reach, we are of the same opinion as Ina Garten and Paula Dean, less isn't more... more is more.

Luckily, this fancy french dish calls for a not-so fancy cut of meat and an even lower rent wine. However, whether its brisket, stew beef or beef shoulder (we both went with the shoulder cuts), you'll want to visit your butcher for the best grade. If you're butchering it yourself, just remember a helpful little hint I learned from Monsieur Bourdain: creamy fat good, shiny fat bad.

On the wine, however, skimp away. In fact, I went for a cheap Burgundy since that is where the dish originated. Well, that's not entirely honest. Actually, I bought Burgundy because Tony Bourdain told me to, but either way, it's a good idea. Mom opted for a Pinot Noir. Our concencus is that any bright, young wine will do.

Before beginning your afternoon long journey into this dish, like my mom alway says, get all your ingredients out and prepped first. Like so...

Once we were both prepped, we texted back and forth on whether to blanch the bacon first, which just seems odd. So, I looked into it. I found a great post, which basically explains that if you want the final flavor of the dish to have a smoky salty presence from the bacon, don't blanch it. But, if you want a more sublte pork flavor without all that smoke... blanch away.

We didn't blanch.

Now, I was entertaining for ten, so I doubled the recipe and had to start a bit earlier. So, we browned, we blended, we deglazed and braised. Although I've seen stovetop versions, we did our braising in the oven.

Somehow, after hours of low heat all those flavors become magic. The aroma permeates the home, so that everyone who walks in the door comments on how good it smells. Once the meat was fork tender, mom and I both had to strain and reduce the sauce before serving.

In Short:

The one thing we did differently: she served hers over buttered egg noodles and I offered just a side of crusty baguette slathered in butter.

The one thing we regret not doing: tossing in a bouquet garni (as is done in Julia's original recipe).

The one thing we absolutely agreed upon: as the beef is the star of the dish, be sure to get a good cut of meat, which doesn't always mean the most expensive!

Well, that's it for this week. Mom will be contributing in future posts, so that'll be fun.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of this, and I can completely picture you and your mom, miles apart, preparing this meal...what a great memory for you! I may have to start this with my daughter. Love you, Jess, and happy birthday!