In my first podcast episode, I chatted with Alex Prud’homme, the great-nephew of the late great Julia Child. Alex has an amazing background and is a highly regarded journalist and writer in his own right. As his bio states on his site, he became a writer “the old-fashioned way.” This included a three-month jaunt to India, Nepal and Japan that led to a two-year journey around the world. He scaled the Himalaya, nearly died in India, crossed the USSR by rail, worked on a fishing boat in Australia and a janitor in Paris. “I kept a journal,” he says. “This daily recording of experience eventually led me to a career in writing.”
Alex and I sat down to talk just after the release of his book, The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act (Knopf). We talked about how she made a significant career shift in her 50s following the second season of “The French Chef,” her first television series on public television. This was’t something Julia openly talked about, but that Alex picked up while while co-writing the bestseller, My Life in France with Julia.
Having been through something of a mid-life crisis myself lately, I was struck again by Julia’s resilience and pluckiness. I also asked Alex to read a passage from the end of this book, one that Julia wrote about playing with food. It has remained with me since I first read it. You’ll hear it at the end of the interview.
We chatted over a lunch of boeuf bourguignon and Rock Star red wine from Alexandra Nicole. You can find an adapted version of Julia Child’s below from her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You can also check out the recipes for Perfect Mashed Potatos and No-Knead Artisan Bread.
Update: Alex has a fabulous new book out. France is a Feast: A Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child. Do check it out.
Beef stew à la Bourguignonne
Marinade for beef
- 2 ½ to 3 pounds about 1.5 kg lean beef stew meat cubed
- 1 750 ml bottle of red wine such as Syrah
- 2 medium carrots chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped (about 1 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves peeled, smashed
- Parsley stems from one bunch
- ½ teaspoon thyme bay leaf
- ½ cup 125 ml Cognac or brandy optional
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces thick-cut bacon or ham cubed
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups 500 ml roasted chicken or beef stock
- 3 garlic cloves
- ½ sweet onion sliced
- 8 ounces 250 grams mushrooms, sliced
- 1 medium carrot chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped (16 oz can)
- 2 medium white potatoes peeled, cut into ½ inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar optional
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Combine meat with marinade ingredients in a large, non-reactive bowl, stir to mix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Strain the marinade into a large pot, reserving the liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil while you prepare brown the meat.
- Remove the meat from the strainer to a plate. Dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Add oil to a large Dutch oven or 6 quart or larger pot over high heat. Brown the meat in batches and set aside. Lower heat, add the ham or bacon. Cook slowly until slightly browned. Remove half, set aside to add before serving.
- Add the meat, the vegetables from the marinade and herbs to the pan with the bacon or ham. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Add tomato paste and stir through until hot. Add the boiled wine and stock. Bring to a bubbling simmer, cover, and put into the oven for an hour and 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Add the garlic, sliced onions, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes and cook until the meat and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Check seasonings, add salt and pepper if needed. Add the reserved bacon or ham, balsamic vinegar and parsley. Serves six to eight.
- Follow directions to marinade the beef and then boil the separated liquid on the stove while you brown the meat and cook the bacon on the saute setting. After adding the marinade liquid and stock, cook at high pressure for 35 minutes. Let the pressure go down naturally.
p class=”alignright”>Please note: This page includes affiliate links; if you purchase anything via the links, I’ll get a small percentage. Photo by Veronika Struder.