Simple Country French Cooking Class – Part I

I’m halfway through my next round of classes at my local food co-op. I decided to take the Simple Country French Cooking Class with Chef Terese because I’ve been wanting to find a simplified Beef Bourguignon recipe and I also wanted to learn how to make mini Lemon Soufflés.

We started class with a small appetizer plate.

We had a French Morbier cheese – Morbier is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from France – named after the small village of Morbier in France-Comté. The cheese is recognizable by the thin layer of black ash (made from vegetable matter) that separates the morning milk from the evening milk. Times have changed and nowadays the cheese is usually made from a single milking with the ash added to honor past traditions.

We also had Niçoise Olives (Small brownish/purple olives that are grown in Southern France) and Acme Bread Co. baguette.

First up for the evening was Beef Bourguignon.

3 lbs. Top Sirloin – trim off all excess fat
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Cups Red Wine – we used a Merlot
Water as Needed
1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Small Bay Leaf
4 Small Shallots – peeled and cut into thin slices
2 Cloves Garlic – minced
2 Teaspoons Fresh Thyme – chopped – can sub. with 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 Tablespoons Butter or Olive Oil – we used olive oil
8 oz. Sliced Mushrooms – We used brown organic cremini mushrooms
1 Cup Pearl Onions – Fresh, not frozen or jarred – Can also use fresh chipolini onions
2 Tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley – finely chopped
1/4 Cup Brandy – optional – we used it
Additional Sea Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

Cut sirloin into 2-inch pieces that are a good 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with flour and mix well. Place into the bottom of a stewing pot or dutch oven. Brown the meat in a little oil (has a much nicer flavor than without) – the key to browning, don’t move the meat around – wait until a nice crust forms before flipping the meat pieces.

Pour in red wine and enough water to cover meat by 1 inch. Bring to a simmer and add in the salt, pepper, bay leaf, shallots, garlic and thyme. A student asked what Chef Terese would recommend as a wine substitute (crazy, I know 😉 ) and she suggested vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. You can also bake this dish in the oven at 325 degrees for 2 hours or you could use your crock pot.

While the meat is cooking, saute the mushrooms in butter until fully cooked and nicely browned. Add in the pearl onions to warm. When the bourguignon is done, stir in your mushrooms and onions, add in the brandy and bring to a good boil.

If sauce is appears to be too thin, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and let boil until the sauce reduces.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with buttered egg noodles, crusty French bread or mashed potatoes. This dish can be made a day ahead and reheated. Serves 6-8 people.

I loved the simple approach to an otherwise complicated dish. The flavor was incredible and seriously, it’s not often that I have a spare 5-6 hours to bust out Julia Child’s masterpiece Beef Bourguignon recipe.

Next up was Bouillabaisse (Seafood Stew/Soup with Saffron)

I’m not going to post the recipe because I wasn’t really fond of the dish – but I do have a childhood story to tell instead. My Mom loves Bouillabaisse and Cioppino. She used to order it at some of her favorite seafood restaurants. The big excitement for me as a little kid (doesn’t take much) – would be her bringing me home the clam and mussel shells from her soup. She would wrap them in a napkin and place them into her purse. The things Moms do for their children. We had a big shell display on a wooden chest in the family room and I would add them to the display as if I picked them off some exotic beach. Good memories for sure – Love ya Mom.

Chef Terese used sea scallops, shrimp and black cod in the bouillabaisse. I think the reason I didn’t like the dish was because she used Pernod. Pernod is actually a successor of absinthe, the potent liquor that contained a toxic oil from wormwood that was outlawed in 1915 in France. One of absinthe’s leading manufacturers, Henri Pernod, then focused its efforts on the lower-alcohol, wormwoodless, anise-flavored Pernod.

I am NOT a licorice fan and I think it killed the entire flavor profile for me. However, there were other students at my table that liked licorice and didn’t care for the flavor either. It needed salt or something.

I will save the Coq Au Vin and the Simple Lemon Soufflés (Soufflés Chauds au Citron) receipes for my next post.

Bon Appetit,

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1 comment

    • Aim on February 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    The Beef Bourguignon looked absolutely delicious!!

    The other dish… I don’t care for licorice either so I probably wouldn’t have liked it. I liked how you told us about the memory of your mom bringing home those shells 😉 Us, mom’s do anything for our kiddos!!

    I can’t wait to read about the Lemon Soufflés!! Yum!!

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