Sunday, August 30, 2009

Boeuf Bourgignon (PTC - DS)

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. (Yes, I know. I wouldn't've thought Meryl Streep and Amy Adams would have gotten me interested in French cuisine, but there you go.)

As it happens, it's a fortuitous purchase, because now I have something to compare Personal Trainer: Cooking's French recipes with. And so we'll begin with Julia Child's recommended beginner recipe: boeuf bourgignon, or beef stewed in red wine.

Ingredients: I found I only had to make one substitution: the recipe called for veal broth, but I opted for beef broth instead. (There's a sub-module in PTC for actually making veal broth, but I felt that since it does say beef broth is an adequate substitute, why not go for it and save myself some hassle?)

As for everything else, it's a bit surprising but PTC's ingredient lists matches Mrs. Child's ingredient list almost to the letter. PTC also has an additional element that Mrs. Child's doesn't: a bouquet garni. It's fortunate that PTC explains how one is done up, because that's a term I don't think the game's intended audience could be expected to know.

Techniques: I have to admit, this is so far the most complex recipe that PTC has thrown at me. The first phase involves marinading the beef in red wine and a mirepoix of carrot, onion, celery, garlic and bouquet garni for a minimum of 5 hours. Which meant for the first time, I used PTC's save function: you can pause in the middle of the recipe, turn the DS off, and when you turn the game back on again there's a new icon you tap that lets you resume where you left off.

It's worth pointing out that Mrs. Child's recipe doesn't call for a half-day marinade. That's because her technique calls for a true stewing, i.e. cooking meat over low heat for 2 to 3 hours. PTC is more of a braise, which means high heat in an oven for slightly under 1 hour.

This was also the first time I actually learned something from PTC, in this case how to peel baby or pearl onions (it involves a warm-water soak for five minutes, trim and peel.) The learning of techniques, I found, was quite easy this time out.

A note about plating: the European method (as advocated by Mrs. Child) involves serving directly from the stewpot. PTC, on the other hand, is quite conscious of its original Japanese clientele: the meat and vegetables are placed in separate bowls, and the sauce is then poured over each. That's a very Japanese method of serving stewed dishes.

Results: Well, this is the first time I tried doing a Bourgignon, and I have to say, allowing for the water content (I probably should have given the sauce more time to reduce) it tasted pretty good. The meat was chewy but not tough, thanks to the marinade, and there was no alcoholic harshness from the wine.

I suspect that if I were to make Mrs. Child's bourgignon, the PTC recipe would come in second in comparison, but for now I'll give the Tsuji Academy a pass on this one.

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