Saturday, October 4, 2014

A very Julia birthday dinner party

Thursday was my BIRTHDAY!!

Now let's go back in time a bit.  Has anyone seen the movie Julie & Julia?

 It's about a girl that cooked her way through Julia Child's cookbook and blogged about it.  Simultaneously, it tells the story of Julia Child's time spent in France.  Basically, it's adorable and although I saw it multiple times when it first came out, I've watched it twice in the last month.

Side note: For those of you who don't know, I love food.  Not just "I love to eat", but I ADORE food.  I love taking random ingredients and combining them to make something delicious.  I also love sharing a home cooked meal or dessert with friends.

Off side note:  And then, in the middle of my second viewing of Julie & Julia, it hit me.  Dinner party!!

Since my birthday was coming up, I decided to host a French themed, Julia Child inspired dinner party.  I figured I might as well go all in, so I went with Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy).  I also selected her Reine de Saba Cake (Queen of Sheba), which is a fudgy chocolate cake topped with ganache and almonds.  Yes, I cooked my own birthday dinner and cake.  But it was so. much. fun!

Boeuf Bourguignon is not exactly complicated, but it does require an entire afternoon to make.  It is composed of three separate dishes, beef in a burgundy sauce, sautéed pearl onions, and sautéed mushrooms.  You begin with the beef, as it takes three hours to cook.  I used a boneless chuck roast, which I cut into chunks.

 Before browning it, I cooked some diced pieces of bacon to have some delicious bacon grease to cook with.  Once the bacon was done, I seared the beef, making sure to brown all the sides. Tip: Do NOT crowd the beef.  Sear in batches, otherwise you will steam the beef, rather than searing it.

When the beef is browned, it and the bacon goes into your trusty dutch oven.   Next, you're going to pour off the grease and deglaze your pan with red wine.  I don't have a photo of the process, but basically you pour the wine into your hot pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all those browned bits stuck to the pan.  That, my friends, is flavor-town.  I used a Chianti that one of my guests generously donated.

Next, pour the wine over the beef.  Add beef broth, thyme, tomato paste, garlic, salt and a bay leaf.  I also added a couple chopped carrots and half a chopped onion.  Bring this to a simmer, put on the lid, and into the oven it goes!

While that is cooking, you need to sauté your onions and mushrooms.  Both will be seared, separately in batches. (Don't forget to use that leftover bacon grease!)

It was at this point that I "cooked" for the first time in my life.  I knew why I shouldn't crowd the mushrooms.  I was brave and kept the heat up high.  I was shaking the pan back and forth over the burner like a mad woman, lifting it in the air and once even tossing the mushrooms.  This was real cooking.  No shortcuts and with real butter.  It was sweaty and messy (there might have been a lost mushroom or two), and is not for the faint of heart.  But I challenge you to get in the kitchen every once in a while, and COOK!  Make a dinner worth making. Feed your family something you can take pride in.  

So here is the picture of the beef portion after it came out of the oven. Unless you were there to smell the utter deliciousness that came from this pot, or to taste the incredibly rich and flavorful sauce, this picture is not that impressive.

So let me just say...that sauuuuuccce. One spoonful, and I thought I heard the heavenly hosts singing.  It was in that moment that I felt like I had achieved greatness.  This was literally the best dish I have ever made.

There are a few more steps that happened after this picture, so if you decide you want to attempt this, I encourage you to watch Julia make this (and take notes like I did!). I also used this recipe as a guide to fill in some of the gaps from Julia's show.

Here are a few shots of the decor!

Scraped the plate clean!

Our appetizers: Brie with Strawberry Jam, crackers, cheddar & grapes.

I'm pretty sure this was the BEST birthday ever!  The party was a wonderful time spent sharing a delicious meal with friends.


  1. I LOVE it! I've been thinking of having a "Julie & Julia" themed birthday party! =)

    1. Thank you! It was so much fun! I adore any themed meal :)

  2. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful recipe. I have organized a dinner party for friends and family at one of the LA event venues on occasion of my 28th birthday. I love cooking so I’ll definitely try to make some Boeuf Bourguignon for the party. I’m sure everyone will love it.