Boeuf a la Bourguignon a la Julia


POSTED: Wednesday, August 05, 2009

It took Chef George Mavrothalassitis—best known as Chef Mavro—some 25 years, living life halfway around the world from his native France, to prepare a classic French dish in one of his restaurants.

Inspired by the film “;Julie & Julia,”; which tells the stories of cooking icon Julia Child and cooking blogger Julie Powell, Mavrothalassitis is presenting a three-course menu featuring Boeuf a la Bourguignon, braised beef in burgundy wine, on Fridays and Saturdays all month at his Chef Mavro restaurant. (The film opens Friday.)

“;I never did prepare this dish in a restaurant in my whole life,”; said a lively Mavrothalassitis. “;This is home cooking. It's not something I would usually include in my restaurant.”;

Yet burgundy beef, as it is referred to in the U.S., has quite a presence in the film, and after a preview screening hosted by Mavrothalassitis a couple of weeks ago, “;so many people were craving boeuf bourguignon that something had to be done!”; the chef said.

MAVROTHALASSITIS will present classic burgundy beef at Chef Mavro, but he updated the dish for the Star-Bulletin, offering a modern presentation using the recipe's ingredients as garnish.

While classic burgundy beef is cubed and ladled alongside potatoes, noodles or rice, the chef sliced a braised shank of short rib for the updated version.

“;I deconstructed the recipe; I took back all the ingredients,”; he explained as he assembled each slice with a slab of potato confit and halved pearl onions, dressed with a burgundy reduction, lardons (pork belly), fried parsley leaves and Hanapepe rock salt.





        Inspired by the film “;Julie & Julia”;:

» Menu: Salade Frisee Aux Lardons (frisee with French bacon, poached egg and croutons); Boeuf a la Bourguignon (braised beef in burgundy wine, pomme anglaise, served tableside); Tarte Tatin (upside-down apple tart with creme fraiche ice cream); and mignardises.


» Seatings: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through August


» Cost: $59, $13 more for wine (Jean Foillard 2007 Morgan grand cru du beaujolais) or $9 for Julia Child's “;reverse martini”;


» Reservations required: Call 944-4714 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


The plated presentation was a work of art—and immediately set stomachs growling.

“;The smell is the best part of capturing the cooking experience,”; Mavrothalassitis said, inhaling with vigor.

Then the chef, his crew and a few kitchen visitors grabbed some forks and dug in.

“;Burgundy beef! Can you believe it? Ha ha!”; the chef exclaimed between bites. “;It's so soft, you don't need a knife. This is good stuff.”;

In “;Julie & Julia,”; it is this dish that illustrates culinary milestones in the lives of both Child and Powell. When each woman presents burgundy beef at their respective dinner parties—Powell's a few years ago and Child's five decades back—their guests take a bite and swoon, not unlike the good chef. There was no need for dramatic liberties with this dish.

Mavrothalassitis said that while he updated the presentation, the flavor was exactly the same as the classic version.

“;We respect the recipe,”; he said.

Several hours earlier, Mavrothalassitis started by searing the beef to seal in its juices, further sealing his pot, which went from stovetop to four hours in the oven, with a rope of raw dough that he wrapped around the seam of the pot and lid.

Afterward, the chef whacked at the crisped dough, which fell apart in chunks, to open the lid. Inside, a succlulent piece of meat sat in the rich dark sauce that was strained before serving and augmented with a few more dabs of butter.

Thanks to the dough sealing the moisture in the pot, the beef was perfect. Retaining moisture is key when dealing with such a long cooking time, the chef explained.

Another tip for home cooks of burgundy beef: Select decent, but not overly expensive, beef and wine.

“;I NEVER heard of Julia Child in my life,”; Mavrothalassitis said of his childhood in Marseilles, where Child lived during her stint in France in the late 1940s to mid-1950s.

Child studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris prior to becoming a cookbook author and television star in the United States a decade later.

It was in the early 2000s, when Mavrothalassitis attended a food and wine festival in Aspen, Colo., that he encountered Child for the first time.

“;I wasn't even cooking. I sat in a booth for the Hawaii Visitors Bureau, and (French chef) Jacques Pepin came by to introduce himself,”; the chef recalled. “;Later that night, we went for a drink at the bar and I saw Julia Child. She was huge—more than 6 feet tall—with a personality to match. She was around 89 at the time and bigger than life. She was having a lot of fun.”;

Mavrothalassitis said he enjoyed “;Julie & Julia,”; starring Meryl Streep as Child. “;It was perfection,”; the chef said of Streep's performance. “;When you close your eyes, it's scary.”;