A Parisian Inspiration

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February 7, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

If there’s one thing about London that you absolutely cannot get in the US it’s this: a 2 1/2 hour train ride to Paris. What a way to spend a weekend! Chris had a two night work retreat that we were able to extend into a long weekend. Granted he had to spend Friday in an overheated conference room, but it’s a small price to pay for an incredible weekend. I’ve finally compiled my pictures and have chosen my favorite bites and sights to share with you, starting with our hotel, La Maison Favart, which was INCREDIBLE. Honestly, the decor was so fabulous that I almost wanted to just stay in all day.

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Almost. But we did get out to see the city. After the Musee d’Orsay, which i absolutely love for its extensive collection of impressionist art, Chris and I walked over to a block of Paris that I feel is French perfection:

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A boulangerie, wine shop, fromagerie,  and a charcuterie?!? What more could you need? We went shop to shop picking out a perfect picnic. And again the dilemma arises, why leave our gorgeous hotel when we have the perfect snack? Why yes, that is brie filled with fig jam, a match made in cheese heaven!IMG_0066

But we did manage to leave again and it was so worth it. Saturday evening, we had dinner at Les Papilles on the left bank of Paris, south of Saint-Germain. If you are in Paris, GO HERE! Oh but definitely make a reservation first. This restaurant is a wine shop/market during the day, and in the evening transforms into a small restaurant with a set menu. The only decision you get to make is which wine bottle you want to pull off their shelves to drink.

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We started the meal with a cauliflower soup that they brought out in a large pot for the table. Poured over crispy buttery croutons, bacon, herbs, creme fraiche, and other goodies, yes please! And the meal ends with a cheese course (my favorite) and a dessert of panna cotta on a citrus base topped with a salted caramel foam.

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But it was the incredible main course that blew me away. As our waiter told us, insert gorgeous French accent here, “it is a beef that is cooked for a very, very long time.” In fact these steaks were dripping through with delicious red wine jus and so incredibly tender without an ounce of fatty meat in sight. My favorite part was the almost raw onions to provide a sharp bite to cut through the beef’s richness.

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The dinner I made last night was inspired by our trip and specifically by cooking the beef for a very long time. I made a base of simplified beef bourgogne (okay, actually it was beef bordeaux since I used an awesome bottle that I picked up for, no joke, 4 euros).

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And after stewing my beef for hours, I topped it with potatoes au gratin. As my friend, Jessica said when I told her about this dish, “sure, why not, everything needs a topping!?”

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Start by browning beef, tossed in flour, salt, and pepper, to lock in all the flavors. Make sure to do this in batches and  not crowd the pan or the meat will steam instead of seal.

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Mix shallots and garlic with tomato paste and beef soup starter in the pan drippings, before deglazing with the wine.

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Add the wine, water, and beef to the pot. Bring just to a simmer, cover, and place in a very low-heated oven. Then wait.

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And wait. And wait. And while you wait, go ahead and make the potatoes au gratin topping by par boiling the potatoes and making a béchamel sauce.

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Once the meet is so tender that it splits with a fork, carefully top the stew with the potato mixture, then sprinkle with cheese, and bake some more! It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you could obviously make either of these dishes separately and they would still be awesome!

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Enjoy with a glass of your favorite French red wine.

Beef Bourgogne au Gratin

Serves 4-6

For the Beef:

2 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. olive oil

¼ cup flour

1 lb beef stew meat

8 oz. shallots, halved or quartered

8 whole garlic cloves, peeled

5 fresh thyme sprigs

1 Tbs. tomato paste

2 tsp beef soup starter

1 ½ cups French red wine

1 cup water

For the Potatoes:

1 ½ lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

2 Tbs. butter

2 Tbs. flour

2 cups milk

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

3 sprigs fresh thyme

½ cup gruyere cheese, grated

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 225˚F.

In a medium Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the beef and toss with flour, shaking off the excess. Brown the beef pieces in batches, about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove and reserve.

Add tomato paste, soup starter, shallots, garlic, and thyme to the pot. Deglaze the pot with red wine, whisking to release all the brown bits from the bottom and edges. Add the water, bring to a simmer, and add back the beef, along with any accumulated juices.

Cover and bake for 3 hours, stirring after every 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the potatoes au gratin. Bring a large pot of water with the potatoes to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, until potatoes are just fork tender, but not falling apart. Drain and reserve.

In a small sauce pot, melt the butter and whisk with flour. Whisk in the milk. Add the garlic and thyme. Simmer for about 8 minutes, whisking frequently, until the sauce thickens. Strain the milk and mix with the potatoes and reserve.

Once the beef is done, remove from the oven and increase the heat to 350˚F.

Remove the thyme stems from the beef. Then carefully lay the potato mixture on top of the stew. Sprinkle with cheese and put back into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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