Yesterday was a damp, misty, chilly day so very suitable to serve our dinner guests a classic boeuf Bourguignon (or, if you prefer, boeuf a la Bourguignonne); very filling so a simple, light starter (more below) and a small but rich classic desert – mousseline au chocolat – with a little side of fresh fruit to offset the richness.
Much as I like French wine, it was a good opportunity to drink a couple of excellent Romanian wines which have been in the rack for a while, a red called ‘3 Hectare’ (three hectares) from the Murfatlar wine region, between the Danube and the Black Sea in south east Romania and made from the ancient Romanian grape variety Feteasca Neagra, and a sweet white called Grasa de Cotnar, from north east Romania, with the dessert. This latter is a wine favoured by French visitors as an affordable alternative to Château d’Yquem. With the starter I chose a refreshing dry Riesling from Germany.
This is the first ‘haute cuisine’ I’ve attempted in quite a while, for reasons I touched on in the previous post (and I forgot to take photos for this post so have cobbled some together from left-overs and pix taken by my wife at the occasion).
‘Crayfish’ and asparagus mousse verrine
Catching up on the blog-related emails I came across a post from blogger ‘a French girl cuisine‘ which seemed to fit the bill for something not too demanding after slaving over the beef. She gives it as a Crayfish & Asparagus Mousse Verrine but I haven’t seen any crayfish since I used to catch them in the nearby River Wharfe when a child so I used King Prawns. I won’t give the recipe here (I’ll just say that it takes more time to wash the liquidiser than to make the recipe!) but follow the link to a French girl cuisine .
Mastering the art of French cooking
The two other recipes come from a book which I’ve said before on this blog is one of my few favourites and that from which I learned to cook classic French: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It wouldn’t go down well with the judges of Master Chef who favour meagre sculptures on a plate, nor the so-called ‘healthy eating’ brigade, but it covers the sort of food I became used to when I had a business client in Normandy (and the sort of quantities served there then, reminiscent of my Yorkshire grandmother’s table).
Boeuf Bourguignon is a labour of love if made in the classic way but not costly other than the necessary bottle of good red wine. It can use a relatively cheap cut of beef; I used skirt. Topside or silverside would be a bit more costly alternatives, or rump if you want to push the boat out, but I really don’t think it’s worth it. Some people marinade the beef before cooking but it isn’t necessary – make the basis a couple of days in advance and let the cooked beef marinade in the gorgeous wine sauce which results from the first stage.
The recipe – for six
A brief summary of the recipe should be sufficient here. Cut 3lb (1.25kg) of lean beef in two inch (5cm) cubes. Cut a 6oz (140g) chunk of streaky bacon in 1/4in (0.5cm) thick lardons and saute to brown slightly in a heavy casserole which will just take the beef. Blanch the bacon rind. Put the bacon aside, raise the heat to almost ‘smoking’ and saute the carefully dried beef cubes a few at a time until brown all over; add the bacon and a carrot and an onion, sliced and browned together.
Toss the beef with 1tsp (5ml) of salt and 1/4 tsp (1 ml) pepper. Sprinkle on 1oz (25g) of flour and toss again. Put in the oven at 450degF (230degC) for 4 minutes, toss again and put back in the oven for another 4 minutes. Now the meat is covered with a thin brown crust. Remove the dish and lower the oven temperature to 325degF (160degC). Add a bottle of good red wine, enough beef stock to just cover the meat, 1 tblsp (15ml) of tomato puree, two mashed large cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) of thyme, a crumbled bay leaf and the bacon rind. Cover the casserole and seal the lid with foil. Put in the oven and regulate the heat so the liquid simmers very slowly. Cook until the beef is pierced very easily with a fork (3 to 4 hours). Cool and put in the fridge until required (at least a day before, preferably more).
On the day of serving, saute about 20 small onions in 1 tblsp (15ml) of oil and 3/4oz (18g) of butter, gently rolling about until browned (about 10 minutes). Braise, covered, in 1/4 pint (150 ml) of good brown stock with a medium herb bouquet (4 sprigs parsley, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme) until tender but holding their shape (about 45 minutes). Remove the herb bouquet and put the onions aside till needed (this can be done well in advance).
Saute 1/2lb (225g) of button mushrooms in 1.1/2 tsp (7.5ml) oil and 1oz (25g) of butter until lightly browned (about 4 or 5 minutes). I don’t need to tell the cooks here that the fat should be hot or the mushrooms will just boil in their own juice rather than saute; it is hot enough when the butter foam just begins to subside. Put aside till needed. Again, this can be done well in advance.
When ready to serve the dish, bring the beef up to almost boiling and pour the sauce through a sieve into a pan. Skim fat off the sauce. If the sauce is thick enough to lightly cover the back of a spoon it’s OK; if not reduce to this point; if too thick add a little stock. Taste and season to taste. Try not to consume all the sauce.
Heat the onions and mushrooms and distribute them over the meat and vegetables back in the casserole. Pour over the sauce. Again this can be done in advance.
Just before your guests arrive, cover the casserole and bring up to a simmer and leave for a couple of minutes and, voila, one of the best creations of French cuisine.
Serve with small boiled potatoes, tossed in butter and chopped parsley, and buttered peas.
Mousseline au chocolat
There are of course many recipes for chocolate mousse and the one I usually make for ‘every day’ eating is very simple, from one of those little books with names like ‘Yorkshire teatime recipes’ and widely available in tourist destinations in the UK for £1.50. In this it’s called Yorkshire Chocolate Pudding!
Last night I settled on the one the authors of Mastering the Art of French Cooking say is the best, and I’d go along with them. As it’s very rich I served it in a little pot with a rosette of cream on top and raspberries, slices of Cox’s apple and bits of fresh orange, all marinated for a couple of hours in spiced rum with a little sugar at the side. This adds a bit of colour to the dish too.
For four people (following a substantial main course) you need three large eggs (use 4 eggs for six with other ingredients in proportion), 3 oz (100g) of sugar (I use unrefined ‘golden’), 4 oz (100g) of dark chocolate (I use 70%), 2 fl oz (60ml) of orange liqueur, 3 oz softened unsalted butter, a tablespoon of strong black coffee and an extra 3 tsp of sugar.
Beat the sugar with the egg yolks until it is pale and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon. Then beat it over hot water, not quite simmering, until thicker like a mayonnaise (about 4 minutes, just too hot to keep your finger in). Then beat for another 4 minutes over cold water. Beat in the orange liqueur. Meanwhile melt the chocolate, with the coffee, over hot water (not touching). Beat the softened butter into the melted chocolate a little at a time. Beat the melted chocolate and butter mixture into the egg yolks. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on 3 tsp (7.5ml) of sugar. Beat until firm peaks are formed. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until well distributed, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites. Drop into little serving pots and pop in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. That’s it. Decorate if you wish. You can serve with a creme anglais or lightly sweetened whipped cream, but I think it’s enough without and prefer to accompany with a little marinated fresh fruit.
The only French product on the after sweet cheese plate was a Brie. Stilton from Colston Bassett and a Yorkshire traditional Wensleydale from Hawes reminded us of where we were.
The morning after
We forwent our usual traditional English for Sunday breakfast. Two lightly poached eggs with buttered toast and Yorkshire tea was perfect
Fittingly I think, my previous ‘resurrection’ post was grumpytyke’s 100th.