My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Favorite Julia Recipe So Far

Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne
This is, by far, my most-prepared and favorite of all recipes from Mastering the Art.

Hands down, it's the most delectable of all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Hands down, it's the easiest of all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 

Such a combination, one would think, should have brought the likes of Nigella Lawson to her knees by now. After all, our Nigella has established herself as the queen of “Maximum pleasure; minimal effort.”
How could she have possibly missed this jewel of Julia’s?

It baffles me. 

If you want to do the impressive, epitome of Julia’s French mastery of the art, then by all means, spend an enjoyable four hours cranking out her Boeuf Bourguignon. 
If you would rather spend a mere half hour producing a luscious, exquisite, over-the-top,  pinnacle of gastronomic indulgence, then Julia’s Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne is your go-to recipe. 
Trust me. 

Mushrooms and shallots get browned in butter; sliced filet of beef, likewise. The pan is deglazed with Madeira, beef stock is added and reduced to a strong, dark syrup. A liberal amount of cream is added, reduced, thickened and finished with the addition of butter. The beef and mushrooms then get swathed in this sauce-for-the-gods.

It's beef Stroganoff on crack.

I wish I could express how pleasurable and divine this creation really is. Thanks to a boyhood friend of mine who now lives in France, I can relay what his French family exclaims whenever they’re dining on something really delicious:

"C'est la Sainte Vierge en culottes de velour!"

(It's the Virgin Mary in velvet panties!)

Ha! I don’t think I could have ever come up with anything as descriptive as that. (I really hope Julia had heard that exclamation during her stay in France. I’m sure she would have loved it.)

If any recipe deserves a comparison to the Holy Mother’s velvet underpants, this one is it.

Invite Nigella for dinner while you’re at it.

For 6 people (serve over white rice)


1/2 pound fresh mushrooms (I much prefer Crimini mushrooms)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon good cooking oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
2 1/2 pounds filet of beef
2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon cooking oil, more if needed
1/2 cup Madeira or dry white vermouth
1 cup beef stock
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch blended with 1 tablespoon of the cream
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons softened butter
parsley sprigs

1) Trim off the surrounding fat and filament from the beef and cut into 2-ounce pieces, about 2 inches across and 1/2-inch thick. Dry thoroughly on paper towels.

2) Sauté the mushrooms in the first amount given of butter and oil for about five minutes, or until lightly browned. Stir in the shallots and cook for a minute longer. Season the mushrooms and scrape them into a side dish.

3) Place butter and oil in the skillet and set over moderately high heat. When the butter foam begins to subside, sauté the beef, a few pieces at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side to brown the exterior but keep the interior rosy red. Set the beef on a side dish and discard the fat.

4) Pour the wine and stock into the skillet and boil it down rapidly, scraping up the coagulated cooking juices, until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup. Beat in the cream, then the cornstarch mixture. Simmer a minute. Add the mushrooms and simmer a minute more. The sauce should be lightly thickened. Correct seasonings.

5) Season the beef lightly with salt and pepper and return it to the skillet along with any juices which may have escaped. Baste the beef with the sauce and mushrooms, or transfer everything to a serving casserole.

6) When you are ready to serve, cover the skillet or casserole and heat to below the simmer for 3-4 minutes, being very careful not to overdo it or the pieces of filet will be well done rather than rare. Off heat and just before serving, tilt casserole, add butter to sauce a bit at a time while basting the meat until the butter has absorbed. Decorate with parsley and serve over white rice at once.

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