Boeuf Bourguignon tonight!

If you haven’t yet seen our writeup in Joe Crea’s “Restaurant Row” column in the Taste section of today’s Plain Dealer, check it out. The PD’s Food and Restaurants Editor says that “foodies like me will be curious to read more about the technical tweaks the chefs employ to streamline the classics while maintaining their integrity.” We agree that including those kinds of details in our blog is a great idea, and we plan to bring you some insight into how we are preparing these dishes — not only how we are adapting them for our restaurant, but some ideas that may help you have an easier time of it if you choose to follow in Julie Powell’s footsteps and tackle some of them yourself.

While each recipe definitely starts with a cookbook — and Ruth reads cookbooks at night before bed the way some people devour novels — our philosophy toward the dishes is to keep to the spirit of the recipes, rather than following them exactly to the letter. For example, while we said yesterday that our Boeuf Bourguignon recipe is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the basic instructions we follow come from the recipe in Julia & Jacques At Home, which Julia published with Jacques Pepin in 1999. However, our version follows the MtAoFC philosophy of including the carrots and onions in the final product, unlike the Julia & Jacques recipe, in which the carrots and onions are used only as components of the mirepoix (combination of carrots, onions and celery) that flavors the sauce and are not present in the final dish. It’s our experience that diners enjoy their Boeuf Bourguignon complete with large, flavorful chunks of carrot and browned pearl onions, along with the sautéed mushrooms. The vegetables add to the dish’s eye appeal and to the overall dining experience. So, keep in mind that if you try this recipe, you need not obey it blindly — if you love the vegetables, do as we do and include them in the finished dish.

One thing that should simplify your home cooking task a bit is the relative availability of peeled, frozen pearl onions in today’s supermarkets, which were not so easy to come by in 1961, when Julia first published MtAoFC.

We prepared a special serving of Boeuf Bourguignon this afternoon to star in next week’s News-Herald feature story about our Julia Project, along with a sample of Monday night’s apple turnover. (Our recipe for that dessert is from the 1978 paperback edition of Julia Child & Company — a book about which we have a great story to tell — but we’ll save that for later.) We think we can guarantee you will enjoy this dish if you order it tonight. Julia recommends serving it with boiled potatoes, noodles or rice; our choice is creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. See if you don’t agree that it’s a terrific complement to the rich beef-and-wine sauce.

In our next post, we’ll talk a bit more about the challenge of cooking dishes like the ones we are presenting in the Julia Project for a restaurant, contrasted to the at-home experience.

We hope to see you tonight!

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