Julia, Gran Fran and Me

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote two years ago, almost exactly. Apparently, as soon as it gets cool here in SF, I need to make Beef Bourguignon. Enjoy!

As you have probably already surmised, if you’ve read several of these posts, Gran Fran is an awesome cook who uses mostly intuition, learned over decades of cooking, alongside her unquenchable thirst for cookbooks.

 One of my earliest mother-daughter memories is of a fundraiser that we did when I was about 5 years old. Gran Fran volunteered for a membership drive for our local PBS television station. We were stationed in a small fold up booth in front of the Bloomingdale’s in Fresh Meadows, Queens (which I believe is now a K-Mart).

In exchange for membership, new members would get a cookbook. Not just any cookbook, but THE cookbook. Which one, you may ask? It’s the Julia Child tome of greatness, 

Mastering The Art of French Cooking


I recall Gran Fran waxing poetic about the recipes and the program. Remember, this was 1975, or so (oops, there it is again, a veiled reference to my actual age), not a time when a lot of people were spending hours make Bernaise sauce at home, but it was beginning to happen. Gran Fran sold some memberships that day, but mostly, she got to represent one of her culinary heroes to the public.

Recently, I asked her which of Julia’s recipes was her favorite. She said “Well, of course it’s Beef Bourguignon.” I know, it’s a typical recipe to choose, but it is one of the best, and we grew up eating it a lot. Gran Fran made it and the house smelled like a French bistro. The warmth of the kitchen, the smells of the red wine mingling with the bacon, thyme and onions is an unmatchable sensory memory for me.

Beef Bourguinon ala Gran Fran with a nod to Julia Child serves 8

One gigantic non-reactive pot is needed!!


  • 3 to 3.5 Lbs Bottom Round, cubed (any good beef stewing meat works here)
  •  1/4 Lb Double Smoked Bacon
  • 2 Tbsps Olive Oil
  • 2 Carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 Onion; diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tsps Flour
  • 3 Cups Dry Red Wine
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leaf


  • Preheat oven to 325°.
  • Boil diced bacon in 3 cups water for 10 minutes. Refresh bacon under cold water. Dry well.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet. Add bqcon. When bacon browns, remove from pan and set aside.
  • Dry beef well, then add it to the hot skillet.
  • Brown well on all sides.
  • In a heavy, nonreactive stew pan, add some oil from the skillet.
  • Saute onions and carrots in stew pan until golden brown. Then, sprinkle the veggies with the flour (which ultimqtely helps thicken the stew).
  • Brown until golden over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add browned meat to veggies.
  • Add red wine to the skillet you used to cook the meat. Stir up all browned particles and bring to a boil. Add this to meat in stew pot.
  • If needed, add water to stew pot so all so meat is covered.
  • In a small non-reactive sauce pan, place tomato paste, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme, with a little bit of olive oil. Stir over medium heat until paste has thinned a bit and all herbs/spices have been incorporated. Add to stew pot.
  • Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove.
  • COver closely (another gran franism) and plce on lower rack in the 325° oven.
  • Leave undisturbed for 1.5 hours.
  • Then, stir,put cover back on and simmer another 1.5 hours.

This stew tastes even better when reheated, so make a day or two in advance