Monday, August 17, 2009

Beef Sauté with Cream and Mushroom Sauce

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One, by Julia Child

I had been forewarned. Don’t go hungry; don’t even think about going hungry.

I made myself a light supper of an omelet with artichoke hearts and a tart arugula salad. I drank a glass of sauvignon blanc and took off, walking four blocks to the closest movie theater. After settling myself in the same room where I had seen Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince a month before, I waited while the room filled up completely, with men as well as women.

We were all there to see Julie & Julia.

I loved it. I loved every single minute of it. I smiled; I laughed; I even cried. And at the end, while the credits were rolling, I joined the audience's ebullient applause, clapping as hard as I could.

I have been cooking out of Julia's books since 1973. In fact, I once made Julia's Cog au Vin from a paperback copy of The French Chef for one of my husband's colleagues who was visiting from Boston.  He worked at WGBH-TV, the station where Julia's TV show was still being filmed. A week later I received this in the mail.

I had been an early reader of the Salon blog The Julie/Julia Project and had preordered the book Julie & Julia from Amazon. I like to think I straddle the generational divide between Julie Powell and Julia Child.

I disagree with any review that says the movie is more interesting during the Julia parts. I found it to be equally compelling no matter which actress was on the screen, Meryl Streep or Amy Adams. 

Obviously, it is mesmerizing to watch Meryl Streep actually become Julia Child right before your eyes. Meryl Streep captured the Julia we all wish we had actually known to a T.  

Of course, I could spot what changes had been made in the translation from the book Julie & Julia to the movie. I knew Julie Powell's language had been more than cleaned up. But the changes didn't matter; Amy Adams and Chris Messina capture the essence of the Julie/Eric Powell story perfectly.

And I must give a shout-out to the delightful Stanley Tucci who brought Paul Child to life. 

If you have not seen this movie, I recommend you do and afterwards read this article by Russ Parsons, which will answer the question surrounding the most puzzling piece of the story. Then succumb, as I did, and make a recipe from your copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

This was one of my favorite company dishes in the 1970's. Yes, it's very rich but so good for a special occasion.
Sauté de Boeuf a La Parisienne
(Beef Sauté with Cream and Mushroom Sauce)

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One, by Julia Child


Now when I make this dish, I use a LeCreuset skillet with a black porcelain interior because I don't cook with acidic wine, vinegar, or tomatoes in either my Lodge cast iron skillet or my deBuyer carbon steel pan (even though that is what I used in the picture above), and Madeira is one of the ingredients in the sauce.

Many ingredients commonly used in French Cooking were not easy to find in an American supermarket when Julia Child wrote Mastering, which is why, I suspect, she includes scallions as a substitution for shallots.*  Shallots are easy to come by now, so these days I use them. 

Serves 6


For the Mushrooms:

8 to 10 ounces of fresh cultivated mushrooms, sliced not too thin
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil - I use peanut oil.
3 tablespoons minced shallots or scallions* - I use shallots.
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Meat:  

2-½ pounds beef tenderloin - Remove all the fat and filament, and cut into 2-ounce pieces. Tail pieces work fine here.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil - I use peanut oil.
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Sauce:

¼ cup Madeira
¾ cup stock - beef or strong chicken - I use chicken.
1 cup heavy cream
2 scant teaspoons cornstarch blended with 2 tablespoons of the cream
Salt and pepper to taste

To Finish:

2 tablespoons (or more) butter


Heat the butter and oil in a 10- to12-inch frypan.  Cook the mushrooms until they have given up their juices and browned lightly. Add the shallots or green onions, and cook for two minutes more. Add a little salt and pepper to taste, and remove the mushrooms to a plate.

Dry the meat thoroughly.

In the same skillet used for the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. When the butter and oil are hot, saute the beef a few pieces at a time, lightly browning the exterior but - this is the tricky part - keeping the interior red. Season the meat lightly with salt and pepper, and set it aside on another plate.

Clean the fat from the skillet, but leave any browned bits of beef behind.

Put the Madeira and stock into the cleaned-out skillet, scraping to incorporate any of the bits of meat in the bottom of the skillet, and reduce to about one-third cup.

Stir in the cream followed by the cream mixed with cornstarch. Over low heat simmer for a minute until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add the mushrooms and any mushroom juices that have accumulated on the plate to the skillet. Taste, and add a little salt and pepper if it needs it, but there's a better than even chance it won't.  You've seasoned it as you've gone along, and the stock you used was probably seasoned with salt.

Next add the meat to the skillet with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. You don't  want the meat to keep cooking so quickly baste the beef with the sauce and the mushrooms, then turn the heat off. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring it in until it is completely incorporated.


Print recipe.

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  1. Dear Vic,
    I just have to tell you how much I love your posts. I wait for them. Lately, I have been reading many food blogs. As a garden writer, I am interested in cooking for many reasons. Sometimes, I feel like some of the bloggers are trying too hard, reaching too far for cute witticisms. Not so here. I love how honest and real your stories feel, and how they naturally segue from life experience to practical information and technique.
    This is a lovely review of Julie and Julia. And the recipe looks mouthwateringly delicious. Thank you Vic... its a pleasure to read your posts.

  2. How, how, how did you keep that treasure secret????!

  3. totally agree and concur with what Michaela wrote

    I'm looking forward to giving this recipe a whirl....just don't say anything to the cardiologist


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