So last week as I rambled on about Versailles and the amazing desserts we had, I promised I would tell you about The Dinner. 🙂 The time has come! But first I must back up a bit, to my first night in Paris on that trip to visit my brother, Ryan.
It being a fine evening we decided to walk to dinner so off we went, striding along cobbled streets, weaving in and out of fellow diners wending their way to favorite spots. Suddenly we felt a few rain drops on our faces and within seconds it was a torrential downpour!!! Rain dumped from the heavens while a wild wind hurled rain drops straight at us! It was hilarious! Our best efforts at making ourselves beautiful for dinner were dashed and I laughed and Ryan didn’t as we huddled under a teensy overhang that did little to protect us from the elements. Then Ry spotted a phone booth and we scurried over to it just as the sky opened up wider and it REALLY started pouring. Rivers of water gushed down streets that had been bone dry only moments before, lightening flashed and I laughed delightedly as Ry shook his head in amusement at his loony sister. 🙂
Then suddenly it was over. People emerged from doorways and continued on their way as if that crazy storm had never happened. 🙂 We arrived at Aux Crus de Bourgogne looking rather the worse for wear, but were greeted warmly and had a good laugh at our adventure. 🙂
This restaurant is one of Ryan’s favorites. It is just around the corner from his apartment and he eats there at least 2 or 3 times a week. The staff all know him by name and positively beam with delight when we enter. As soon as they know I’m his sister, I’m greeted with a flurry of kisses from perfect strangers and treated like an old family friend.
We had such a great evening! We ate with a couple of Ry’s coworkers, Pat, a hilarious Canadian and Bertrand, a suave Frenchman who is married but, as Ry put it, “he’s never let that stop him.” 😉 We had a great time. The food was delicious and, thanks to the highly amusing Pat (and Ryan, per usual :-)), conversation was a delight. 🙂
We started out with wine, a delicious red, followed by foie gras (a silky smooth bit of heaven!) spread on toast, crudites (including the most gorgeous little radishes!) dipped in grey salt, and various thinly sliced sausages.
For the main course I had beef bourguignon with mashed potatoes in honor of Julia Childs – absolute PERFECTION!! I’ve never tasted anything like it. The beef was fork tender, the sauce rich and dense with the flavors of caramelized vegetables and red wine.
Pat had roast rooster and Ry and Bertrand had beautiful fresh fish deboned and lightly breaded. Three bottles of wine later, we added dessert: divine chocolate mousse and cherries in brandy – unbelievably good! Then Bertrand decided we all needed to have a glass of Calvados and a round of prune liqueur. Bliss. 🙂
And this is why, after our wonderful, wearying day at Versailles, we simply had to return to this little place of comfort and culinary delights.
We were greeted with handshakes and kisses and shown to our usual table. 🙂 Isn’t it marvy to have a “usual table”in Paris? 🙂 We had a splendid time. Our hosts gave us complimentary glasses of chilled white wine then brought our starters: crudites (arugula, frisee, radishes, avocado and boiled egg with house dressing), a platter of wafer thin ham, small bowl of cornichons and a basket of bread. I had every intention of ordering something new, but as soon as I remembered the bouef bourguignon I HAD to have it again. 🙂
Amy ordered the salmon topped with fleur de sel and accompanied by simple noodles, and Ry had filet of beef with mashed potatoes and haricots vert. A lovely red wine and three desserts later, we were ready for bed. Home we went, checking out the latest Paris fashions in the brightly lit windows as we passed.
Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon
(Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.
In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.
Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.
Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.
Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.
Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.
Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.