This statement striked attention to my foodie/Francophile grandparents. You see, my Pop's favorite French dish, or possibly his all-time favorite dish, is beouf Bourguignon. My entire family understands how dear this slow-cooked stew is to him. One time we dined at L'ardoise Bistro in the Castro in the fall together. The food was so good my Pop asked the darling waitress if they served his beloved beouf Bourguignon. She responded, "Oh, no, Monsieur, maybe only once or twice in the winter." That was understandable, and my Pop was willing to wait, he said. "Well, I know what I can do for you. I will call you when it's on our specials," the waitress said in her cute French accent.
So we went back in the winter. The chef even came out and asked my Pop how he liked it. My Pop had to be honest, and he admitted that it wasn't as good as he's had in Paris. Maybe it was the fact that it was served on pasta noodles.
Anyway, long story short-- Julia Child's beouf Bourguignon is known to be authentic and easy enough for the "Servantless American Cook". My aunt and her family visited during break, so we saw "Julie & Julia" together. The minute the credits rolled, we announced that we were making beouf Bourguignon pronto. Meaning tomorrow, for my Tita's birthday party. So we did.
The following are a few snapshots of our two-day preparation for the meal:
The key is selecting a good wine!
Tending to the increasingly tender meat
Another round in the oven
The next day, the dish was nearly completed. All that was left was to simmer the meat and sauce, add a few finishing touches and serve. As it came closer to dinnertime, my Uncle Ben arrived, which was a big deal. You see, my Uncle Ben (who's really my great uncle) has been working as sous chef at the Nikko Hotel San Francisco for years. He's been around good food since he was cooking for the Army! On the contrary, he's stopped eating red meat. Of course, my mom invited him over anyway and told him, "Get ready to be impressed." Gulp.
With that, he entered the kitchen and headed to the stove, the aroma hard to ignore. My mom's friend Cynthia was there, too, and the four of us looked at each other expectantly. Uncle Ben dipped in a spoon as he inspected the simmering stew. We stared as he brought the spoon to his lips. Uncle Ben closed his eyes and let the sauce linger on his taste buds for a moment.
Then he spoke. "Boy, for awhile there I thought I was transported to Provence," he said. I watched as the three women erupted in a happy, girlish shriek. My Tita Maluh and I had passed the test.
We served the stew to our party guests with rosemary fingerling potatoes and wine. Our plates were wiped clean with two different loafs of bread, one being a cheese slab from Noe Valley Bakery. Uncle Ben still couldn't get over how delectable our beouf Bourguignon was-- he was enjoying it without even touching the meat!
Oh, and just to make your mouth water, we had a surplus of desserts-- one six-inch apple crumble cake from Lotta's Bakery, a variety of six gourmet cupcakes from Noe Valley Bakery, plus a simple Scharffen Berger mocha chocolate cake my aunt and I baked earlier "just because".
I'll always remember that night-- my Julia Child debut! Now guess who's going to be enjoying this dish sometime in the near future...