Cliché as it may sound, I decided this weekend to create a French inspired dinner. Since visiting Paris for a first time I often found myself reminiscing about French dining experience, about little salad on a side with nice vinaigrette, bit of fresh baguettes with rich butter, rich meaty dishes and potatoes…
When we lived in Edinburgh, we were lucky to have an amazing bistro where you can get nice French steak and fries and some of the most traditional dishes at bistro prices…Since we left, in Lancaster there is actually not that much of a French dinner unless you make one yourself or if want a treat, then you’ll find yourself in Quite Simply French ( my husband took me there for my birthday 🙂 ).
A year ago, I watched a movie, which further sparked my interest in cooking French. It is quite famous, Julie and Julia, which tells you a story of an American woman recreating French dishes at home using a book by a fellow American, Julia Child (the first to bring those recipes to America in English). If you have not watched, but love cooking and see it as one of you rescues from modern world at times, you may really enjoy it!
After watching that movie, part of me felt that I wanted to create a cooking blog too or start experimenting with complex recipes. Not shortly after, it was my birthday and my best friends has sent me two copes of Julia Child’s French cooking. These are quite special books I must say. You won’t find in there picturesque images of dishes but you can learn a great deal about various techniques, variation of famous French dishes, secrets of cooking with meat, sauces and baking…
This weekend to decide on my next complex dish to make, me and my husband were doing some blind guessing, randomly choosing the page numbers and checking out the recipe. We stopped on Beef Bourguignon. Previously, I cooked a little bit similar variation of dinner with chicken, famous Coq au vin. Yet, beef is the whole new level. Simply because this dish will take you good 4-5 hours to make.
I started a little later, but my advice would be to maybe start cooking a little bit earlier than noon. I got fresh beef, nice full-bodied wine, onions, carrots and bacon larders. Fresh thyme and bay leaf are also important for seasoning! The weather was rather gloomy so if you a re prepared to stay around all day and want a rich meal, this is just perfect!
The full recipe can be easily located anywhere online. The key for this to be right is to make sure that you dry the meat before cooking it, that way it’ll brown nicely and will have even a little bit of crispy skin when all ready.
To go fully French, I prepared fresh vinaigrette made of a table spoon of white wine vinegar, a half table spoon of Dijon mustard and olive oil, gently added to whisked mixture. It goes perfectly over fresh lettuce leaves, that’s all that you need!
For beef, after it’ll have its nice journey in the oven for a good 3 hours, on a side it is nice to prepare onion gently browned and reduced in stock or red wine. Plus, some mushrooms sautéed. I also made some green beans in the same way in mushrooms, gently sautéed with butter, piece of garlic, a bit of salt and pepper.
Lastly, as a side, I made Dauphinoise potatoes. I used milk and a bit of Lancashire cheese, which some people of course would replace by nice Swiss cheese but I thought why not use something local 🙂
I had a bit of a strategy with preparations, I first looked after beef and before leaving it to cook slowly, slices the potatoes (leave them in the water so they wont get dark), chopped onions and mushrooms. When about half an hour was left on the meat, given that I don’t have two ovens to cook in different temperature, I left the beef to finalise cooking on a slow heat on my stove and started with baking potatoes. I then prepared onions, mushrooms and beans. I served them in little bowls and covered each with foil once they were ready so they keep warm once the final meal is on the table.
And that is it, really 🙂 Because you virtually cook all day the effort is actually nicely spread and it doesn’t feel like you are constantly in the kitchen, you can watch a movie in between whilst the beef is cooking and have a glass of wine.
Ah lastly, I used full bodied Sicilian wine for the beef and to accompany dinner we went with Chianti! I know I should have had French to make it fully French style dinner but oh well, Chianti goes excellently with this dish!