When the film “Julie and Julia” came out in 2009, American moviegoers flocked to bookstores to purchase Julia Child’s, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Sales were so brisk that the cookbook quickly topped the New York Times best-seller list–for the first time since it was originally published 48 years before!
Home cooks quickly discovered that while Julia may have been brilliant with a whisk, hers was not an easy or uncomplicated method for learning the intricacies of fine cooking. It was classic technique, but it wasn’t simple.
Case in point: I made her beef bourguignon exactly once. It was sublime but it took me two days of chopping, simmering and sautéing, during which I amassed a sink-ful of dirty pots and pans. I soon abandoned her recipe (for which I have been ever repentant) for one requiring less of a commitment of time, pot-washing and, lest we forget why we hit the gym, calories.
Now there’s a new rendition of her seminal dish that features everything but the beef. Deb Perelman, creator of the popular cooking blog Smitten Kitchen, developed this recipe for mushroom bourguignon, and I think it’s brilliant. Let’s count its many blessings: it’s delicious, healthful, economical, easy-to-prepare, and can be completed in less than an hour.
There’s one potential drawback–if you’ve got a die-hard meat lover in your house, he or she may miss the beef. There’s no getting around that. My husband, Champ, said that he liked this dish very much, but when pressed for a comment, he added, “I think it needs something…um…chunky added to it.”
I asked if by chunky he meant beefy. He replied, “No, not particularly. But a bit of beef wouldn’t hurt.”
There you have it. I’m going to take his advice: the next time I make this I’m going to add big chunks of carrot and cook them with the mushrooms and onions. Thank you, Champ, for the inspired idea. Thirty years ago my mother said that you were a keeper and, as always, she was right.
2 T. olive oil
2 lb. portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/4 ” thick (I used smaller cremini mushrooms, quartered)
1 cup pearl onions, peeled (I used frozen, thawed)
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 t. fresh thyme leaves (1/2 t. dried)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
2 T. tomato paste
2 cups beef or vegetable broth
1 T. butter, softened
1 1/2 T. all-purpose flour
Egg noodles, for serving
Plain Greek yogurt and freshly chopped parsley, for garnish
Heat half the oil in a large pan and saute the mushrooms and onions until they begin to darken but don’t release their liquid, about 4 minutes. Remove them from the pan.
Heat the second tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the carrot, onion, thyme and a bit of salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits and reduce the wine by half. Stir in the tomato paste and broth. Add back the mushrooms and any juice that’s accumulated and cook gently for about 20 minutes, until the mushrooms and onions are very tender.
Combine the butter and flour on a plate and mash them together with a fork. Stir this into the pot and cook until the sauce thickens. Season to taste and serve with egg noodles; dollop with greek yogurt and sprinkle with parsley.
If you’re so inclined, you could serve this with something brown, like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa or even farro. Or do what I often do–roast a sweet potato and top with this stew. Oh, and have another glass of wine because you’re being so downright virtuous.