When, when, when?

My mother always said, it’s not what you know, it’s what you know how to fix.  I was off to the butcher in Bourgueil to buy my boeuf for the Boeuf Bourguignon and nestled in next to what looked the most like chuck, was a cut called “boeuf bourguignon.”  Incredibly lean, definitely not chuck.  What is a cook to do?  Question the butcher?  Of course.  Insult the butcher?  So way not.  Just how would I feel if he came over to my homeland and said “I make my hot dog with saucisson and I serve it on a baguette.”  I would have to say, “you might, but that’s no hot dog.”

I bought the “boeuf bourguignon” cut, did everything I could to make myself believe it was exactly the same as chuck–that it just looked different.  We diced and boiled salt pork belly with a few peppercorns, bay leaf and a clove of garlic and then sauted them til they were crispy.  We diced onions and cubed carrot and sauted them with half a head of garlic, some fresh thyme and another bay leaf, until the onions cried out to us to be eaten. We restrained, removed them from the pan, added the fat that was left from browning the pork bits and browned off the boeuf.  Gave it a hefty pour of red wine, let it come to a simmer, and then put everything together in a dutch oven with enough chicken stock (made from raw bones, carrot, celery, onion, a piece of tomato, a clove of garlic, parsley sprigs, and fresh thyme) to cover, covered it with parchment paper and a lid set ajar on top and left it to ever so gently braise in the oven at 325 degrees.  After two and a half hours there was no sign that the beef was done.  We ate perfectly boiled eggs, tender in the center with a spill of homemade mayo, green olives, tiny slices of shallot and slices of hefty country French bread (pane traditional) and a salad of fresh tomato, walnuts just picked from the tree, olive oil, thyme, parsley and a bit more shallot.  We baked off the cakes and whipped the cream, we boiled the potatoes with butter and still the boeuf wasn’t done.  We ate the chocolate cake and finally some of the sauce from the boeuf on top of the potatoes with one of the chunks to chew on.  I said good night to everyone, cleaned the kitchen, checked the boeuf (four and some hours now) and not quite.  The next day I put it on top of the stove for another two hours and like a turtle crosses the finish line after never moving forward to the naked eye, the boeuf, boeuffed.  It’s the difference between making it through the movie and marrying for the rest of your god given life.  The French demand a reduced work week for a reason.  They are cooking.
Since then the ladies have seared salmon, whisked the most gorgeous beurre blanc ever to have been whisked, brined shrimp, cancassed tomatoes, poured lovely dijon vinaigrette over teeny tiny lentils, tasted a dozen cheeses, climbed the steps of Chinon, wandered through the markets of Montesereau and Bourgueil, and reposed.  Tonight we have a wine tasting here at home after class and before dinner.

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