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Veganizing Julia Child: Mushroom Bourguignon

I have long been a fan of Julia Child. I admire her immensely, because she was a pioneer in her field. Before Julia, there were very few female cookbook authors, and there were no TV chefs. She singlehandedly brought the art of French cooking to North America.

I spent the first half of last summer (before I went to Paris) reading her biography, and we share some traits in common. First off, we’re both quite tall, secondly, we almost share a birthday (born just one day–and several years–apart), and we are both cookbook authors! In a way, I owe her thanks for my own success, as she was the one that paved the way.

Vegan Mushroom Bourguignon

If you don’t eat meat, living in France can be a challenge. They are a very meat-loving country. Luckily, in Paris, it wasn’t that hard to find vegetarian or vegan places, but most of Julia’s recipes revolve around animal-based proteins. So I have taken up the challenge: I want to veganize some of Julia Child’s recipes, and I’m starting with Beef Bourguignon.

Beef Bourguignon is a hearty stew made with lesser cuts of beef. By stewing them for hours in wine, stock and aromatics, the tougher cuts of meat become tender. For this particular recipe, I’m substituting mushrooms for the beef. Mushrooms are a great swap in this case, as they have a meaty texture, and will soak up all the flavors like little sponges. The bonus of this recipe is that it’ll only take you half an hour or so to make, as opposed to the 3-5 hour timespan it would take you to make it with beef.

You can use whatever kinds of mushrooms you like for this; I’m using button and crimini mushrooms, as it was what was at my grocery store. But portobellas would also be great. If you can find foraged mushrooms this time of the year at your Farmer’s Market, go for it.

You don’t have to be precious about the mushrooms. I sliced some, and some I quartered, just to give different bits of texture in the dish. You could even leave them whole if they are smaller.

Mushroom Bourguignon

Traditionally, Julia Child would have served this with potatoes, but I’ve served it over top of noodles and it was great. It would also be wonderful over polenta, don’t you think?

One last note: I thickened the stew with flour, but you could easily thicken it with cornstarch if you wanted to keep it gluten-free.

The end result is a rich, hearty stew, dark and earthy and shimmering with wine. It’s perfect for a cold fall day.

Bon Appétit!

Mushroom Bourguignon

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegan butter substitute
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, 1/2″ dice
  • 1 large carrot, quartered, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 packages of fresh mushrooms (mixed)–about 5-6 cups, sliced or quartered
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 1-2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-2 cups red wine
  • 3 tbsp flour or cornstarch
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat a large dutch oven oven over medium heat and add the vegan butter and olive oil. Once they are melted together and shimmering, add the onions and carrot, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until they are soft.
  2. Add the garlic and continue to stir until the garlic becomes fragrant. Now toss in the bay leaf, rosemary, and sprigs of thyme.
  3. Add the mushrooms all at once and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper, then allow to cook down for about 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms have begun to shrink down and are releasing their moisture.
  4. Make a well in the middle of your pot, and add the tomato paste into it. Dissolve the miso paste into your vegetable stock, and add about a cup of it, along with the wine, into the pot as well. You should have stock and wine coming just to the top of the mushrooms. Stir, cover, reduce heat and allow to stew down for about another 5-10 minutes, adding more moisture if needed.
  5. Once the stew begins to thicken and darken, stir together your flour or cornstarch with about the same amount of stock until no lumps remain. Carefully begin to add this slurry to your stew, a little at a time, cooking it out, until you get your desired gravy consistency.
  6. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
  7. Serve atop noodles or potatoes, along with a side salad.
  8. Can be made a day in advance, and maybe even tastes better the next day.

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Julia Child’s Apple Tarte Tatin

This is the stuff dreams are made of.

In cooking, sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its  parts. A few years back, in Greece, I had a Greek Salad. I was on a remote Greek Island, on a remote beach at the very end of the bus line. There were almost no tourists there, and only once place to buy things to eat. I ordered a Greek Salad, and ate it, with my fingers, sitting on the beach. It was incredibly simple: peppers, onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and oregano, but the combination, along with the view, made it one of my favourite meals of all time.

Some of my favourite dishes follow this formula: a few simple, high-quality ingredients, combined in the right ratios, make stunningly flavourful dishes. Pasta + garlic + olive oil + herbs + cheese, for example. Cream + sugar + egg yolks + vanilla. Mmmm…

apple tarte tatin

Apple Tarte Tatin is an old French dessert. It is, in essence, the French version of an apple pie. It contains 4 ingredients (not including the crust): apples, sugar, butter and lemon. But the end result is a luscious, almost-candied fruit that really is elevated so far beyond the humble apple.

This recipe is all about technique, and it’s not easy. This is for those of you who like a challenge. I have tried making this a few times already, but only recently had success. There are a lot of steps, and caramel is notoriously finicky (and dangerous! it’s very easy to burn yourself). I wanted to master (hehe) Julia Child’s version, to start, but now that I feel like I’ve conquered that, I’m working on another version with quince and pears. Stay tuned.

By the way, if you want to eat this without all the work, I recommend The Truffle House in Dundarave.

Apple Tarte Tatin

(from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

Ingredients: 

  • 6 firm apples, like Granny Smiths, peeled, cored, and cut in 6ths (some recipes keep the apples halved, but I like mine in smaller slices)
  • the juice of one lemon
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 single pie crust or puff pastry

Method: 

  • Peel and core the apples, then slice them. I used my hand-dandy OXO Good Grips Apple Divider for this.
  • Toss the apples into a bowl with the lemon juice and 1/2 a cup of sugar. Toss well, then allow to sit for 20 minutes.
  • While the apples are macerating, you can start on the caramel. I used my old cast-iron frying pan for this. You need to use a frying pan that go into the oven, so no wooden or plastic handles. Melt the butter over medium-high heat, and then add the remaining cup of sugar. Keep stirring and working the caramel until the sugar is all melted into the butter, and then keep working it until it is… well… caramel in colour. Mine was a bit thick, and felt a little grainy, so I added a tablespoon of water here and there until I felt it achieved the right syrupy consistency. You have to really babysit the caramel so that it doesn’t burn, but if you stir it constantly, it may take a long time to cook, so you can leave it for a moment or two at a time, then go back to stirring it. Don’t check your email, though. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Once the caramel has achieved perfection, take it off the stove and let it cool a little.
  • Drain the apples. Arrange the apples in a circular pattern on top of the caramel. You should have enough for two layers of apples.
  • Return the pan to the heat, and allow the caramel to cook around the apples. Cover after 10 minutes, and allow to cook for about 10-15 minutes more. Every few minutes or so, push the apples down into the caramel with a spoon, squishing the juices from the apples out and allowing them to mingle with the caramel. After about 20-25 minutes, the caramel will be thickened, and the apples will be cooked down. Remove from heat.
  • Cover the apples with your pastry (cut in a circle), and tuck it under the apples on the edges of the pan if possible. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden.
  • Remove from the oven, and allow to cool so it is handleable. Place a large plate on top of the frying pan, and carefully flip it. The tarte tatin should now be crust-side down on the plate. Slice and serve with whipping cream or ice cream.

 

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