I am convinced that to be a true foodie, you have to be the obsessive sort. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of this–at least in the dim recesses of my mind. It’s all because of Walter.
Walter was my Dad’s best friend while I was growing up. He was a cabinet maker who ran his own business by day. After work, he would come home and make dinner for his wife and kids. He was a great cook, and he enjoyed cooking very much. Doubtlessly, he enjoyed eating even more. Walter knew everything there was to know about food and he knew all the best places to get it. Every Saturday he drove thirty kilometers into the city from his home in the suburbs and spent hours going from shop to shop, acquiring his favorite sausages and cuts of meats and raw milk cheeses from Quebec. He was a man after my own heart, that Walter.
I, too, am similarly obsessed. I have sat in gridlocked bridge traffic for a croissant from Thomas Haas, spent hours walking around Paris looking for Poliâne, the world famous boulangerie. Ask me specifics about the art and architecture of the great European cities I have visited, I may draw a blank. But I can recount in excruciating detail what I ate there.
So it’s no surprise that since I have started cooking from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking that I have been cooking from it compulsively. Now, I had this cookbook before all this hullabaloo about the Julie and Julia movie. It was the first book I bought when I decided I wanted to become a food writer and get serious about cooking. The idea of cooking from it, however, was intimidating enough that it sat on my bookshelf, gathering dust, until I joined some food bloggers in a MtAoFC challenge. Everything I have made turned out better than I expected, and though I haven’t made anything terribly complicated, what I have made has been absolutely delicious.
This Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne from MtAoFC Volume I is a fine choice if you need an impressive dish in a hurry. It calls for beef filet; the tenderloin butt and the tail of the beef are often used. It can be cooked in advance but requires care when reheating so as not to overcook the meat.
Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne
for 6 people
1/2 pound fresh 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
1/4 cup Madeira or dry white vermouth
3/4 cup beef stock
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch blended with 1 tablespoon of the cream
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons softened butter
1) 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.
2) 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.
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 at once.