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Dec 21, 2009 11:54 AM

Julia Child's Beef

I'm sure it was me but I prepared the famous recipe indicated above and it really was so very unmemorable. I used cubed chuck which ended up to be a bit tough (despite cooking it forever) and an inexpensive but basically drinkable Chianti. The only thing I didn't do was use slab bacon with the rind. I couldn't find it so I used a little extra sliced (thick) bacon. I am so disappointed. I dried each piece of meat individually and browned them to perfection. Anybody have a similar experience? Any suggestions? I wanted it to be amazing!

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  1. I never make any stew with "stew meat." I always buy a roast and cut the cubes myself. That way I can be sure the meat is all coming from the same cut. When you buy stew meat in the grocery store, they often mix up chunks of various cuts that are left over on the chopping block to make up the package. Not all cuts of meat cook the same.

    Did you serve the stew the same day? It's always better the second day.

    1 Reply
    1. If it's too tough you may have cooked it at too high a temperature. Do you know if your oven is properly calibrated? An oven thermometer may be your answer.

      5 Replies
      1. re: KTinNYC

        No, the temp is perfect. The oven is only about 4 or 5 months old anyway but, actually, about 3 weeks ago I had to have it serviced for a burner problem and the serviceman checked the oven temp for me - just to be sure (I always worry about that).
        I'm wondering if the wine was too light - - maybe it needed to be more robust.

        1. re: lisaud

          I wouldn't take serviceman's word I'd buy an oven thermometer and check. The type of wine shouldn't make any difference in the tenderness of the meat. The cut of meat and the temperature and method it's cooked in will have an affect on the tenderness.

          1. re: KTinNYC

            I'm sorry...not being very clear. I was more concerned about the flavor - or lack thereof - than the relative toughness of the meat which is why I questioned the kind of wine I used. It was actually more chewy than fact it was falling apart. I'm sure the oven temperature is fine since I bake in it all the time with good results. Also, it was barely simmering at 325.
            I agree with you about the cut of the meat and I think I will take ChefJune's advice and buy a whole piece of beef and cut it myself.

            1. re: lisaud

              Did you salt it enough? Blandness in a stew or soup often results from undersalting. I can spend 10 minutes or more tweaking the salt level.

              I don't think there was a problem with the cut of meat, though you might need longer cooking. Chuck is fine (though I like shank even better). Precut stew meat is often too lean - from rump.

              As with most stews and braised dishes, storing it overnight can improve flavor.

              1. re: lisaud

                I think that while this may not be the case in your situation, the temperature can have a substantial effect on the flavor thusly: if one is cooking meat that has some fat and connective tissue, braising at the low temperature should cause the sauce and beef to meld, the gelatin and fat to gently break down into the sauce, and the meat not to be too dry and tough. I say this from sad experience- cooking a less than ideal beef stew meat at too high a temperature can result in a less flavorful and less "bodied" sauce. Not that this is the issue you are trying to remedy.

        2. I made it and was not overly impressed. I cooked it at a low temperature (< 212) in cast iron for a small eternity with a thermometer alert. I will not bother with the individual browning of the pieces next time. I used pork back for the lardons. I also didn't cut it into 3" cubes, but made them thinner against the grain. It was a cheap cut of meat but ended up tender. Not tender in terms of a good steak, but tender in that the fibres would fall apart as you ate it. It was also modified as when I neared completion it was missing certain floral / herbal notes I wanted. So I chucked in some fresh herbs and added a large splash of Angostura bitters.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Paulustrious

            I wanted to be impressed! I'm going to try again with different meat, different wine, and the right kind of bacon (hopefully I can find it). Also, I may not have used enough herbs in the mushrooms which was whole other recipe so I'll change that too. I'll report back!

          2. Remember, it is a classic dish. I am not sure how much it was Julia's, but rather just a classic French dish. Do not shoot the messenger.

            And based on your personal account, if the cook is unfamiliar with a proper method and list of ingredients, the cook might not wish to lambaste a classic dish. Unless, of course, you are basting lamb.

            5 Replies
            1. re: DallasDude

              Dallasdude, I'm not shooting - or lambasting - anyone but myself. I'm taking full responsibility for its relative failure (I mean it was very edible and even enjoyable, just not great) and I'm trying to figure out what I did wrong. I'm sure it has endured and continues to be lauded and recreated because it is a great recipe.

              1. re: lisaud

                Ahh, i figured that was the case. tried to be more tongiue-in-cheek than anything. Only suggestion from this camp would be better ingredients. the wine is important, and I know how it feels to chunk good wine into a dish, thinking it a waste. But remember, as the dish reduces, so does the wine and its flavor. Bad wine reduces to an even worse sauce. Mediocre wine begets a mediocre sauce. And by all means use a proper beef. To save expense, I often check out Asian or other ethnic markets where meat prices can be half of what the average man pays. example, I bought a 6 pound tenderloin at an Asian market last week for 32 bucks. It was far from prime, but made an excellent meal (Korean marinade and smoked).

                Best of luck.

                1. re: DallasDude

                  Interesting advice - I never thought about an Asian market for meat. But they abound in northern NJ so I will check it out. What cut do you recommend for beef stew? By the humor wasn't completely lost on me but this is serious stuff!!

                  1. re: lisaud

                    Series of diconnected points...

                    I buy all my slow cook meats there, especially stuff to be brined / smoked / braised etc. Pork is ridiculously cheap - pity the poor farmers.

                    Sirloin tip was available at my local Asian market at $2-99 for the whole thing.

                    I use shallots rather than pearl onions.

                    The wikipedia article is interesting...

                    The Larousse method goes via an Espagnole demi glace and reduces the stock prior to braising. I think this sauce has as much impact on the flavour as the wine.

                    IMO Julia Child's method does not make the most of the herbal flavours.

                    I've only made it by JC's recipe twice. That is unlikely to change. Two strikes and you're out - even if it's my fault and I changed what she said.

                    1. re: Paulustrious

                      thanks for the wikipedia link. interesting article. And shallots instead of onions. that's interesting too. I bet it gives it a nice flavor.

            2. While I haven't made Julia's exact recipe for Beef Bourguignon, my go to beef bourguignon is very similar. I definitely would say cut up your own chuck rather than the "stew meat" in the grocery store; I've done both and definitely thought cutting my own was better. Also the wine - a decent burgundy is always a good bet I'd say; otherwise (blasphemy!) a decent pinot noir. Doesn't have to be expensive or mind-blowing, but shouldn't be merely drinkable - should be something you would actually enjoy drinking. Subbing in bacon shouldn't have mattered much (I do the same) but do take as much time as need to reduce the liquid portion at the end to your desired consistency.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cookie44

                I think you're right about the "stew meat." It had no fat at all and I'm sure that was at least one reason why the meat was chewy even as it fell apart. I will cut my own next time. I also agree about the wine. I used chianti because that was her first rec. in the recipe from
                Mastering the Art... (evidently there are other variations) but it was against my better judgement.

                1. re: lisaud

                  With lean stew meat I take the extra effort to cut the pieces across the grain, to shorten those tough fibers.