Why toss beef chunks with flour AFTER browning and then brown again in the oven?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by homecook61, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. homecook61

    homecook61

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    Hi, newbie here both to this forum and to learning how to cook.

    I was wondering, in Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon recipe, she says to brown the beef first in the oil and pork fat, and THEN season and flour and then roast the chunks of beef in the oven at 450 degrees. 

    I'm curious about the reasons why this is done in this order, as opposed to, say, tossing the beef in seasoning and flour and then frying.

    I figured people here would be able to enlighten me.  Thank you for any help you can give!  /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif     
     
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    If you look again, the recipe only calls for the floured bacon/beef/vegetables to be in the hot oven for 4 minutes, that is NOT to brown but simply "cook out" the flour taste. Notice that after 4 minutes, the oven is turned down to 325°F and the braising liquids are added.

    The actual browning/searing is done PRIOR to adding the flour. IMHO, this technique actually is creating a "flavored roux"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
     
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  3. homecook61

    homecook61

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    Oh, of course, thank you so much!  I appreciate you taking the time to answer and sharing your wisdom with someone who is trying to learn.  That makes sense - a roux would make the sauce at the end have more body than it would otherwise, and probably add some flavor too I am guessing.  Thank you!  /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif   That makes perfect sense!

    P.S.  Now that I'm finally learning how to cook at 49 (was in the Army, now retired early) I have even more respect for Chefs.  You guys are absolute Gods!  I have no idea how you do it.     
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2010
  4. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    If you flour the beef before browning, a great deal of flour adheres to the meant through the cooking process and you end up with an entirely different texture on the surface of the meat.  Not to meniton a looser sauce.

    French cooking is often an assemblage.   Sometimes, as here, that means that ingredients are treated preliminarily before moving to the final cooking process. 

    In this recipe, Child saw searing the beef as a separate, preliminary process.  That's just as she saw the hot, dry start as a way of simultaneously toasting the flour to get "the raw" off and prevent clumping; and getting a bit of fond going with the aromatics and beef as a preliminary to the braise itself.  

    More simply, Pete's right about almost all of it, but not about the roux.  It's only kinda sorta like a roux.  A roux is a specific thing, and this ain't it.

    Sometimes, especially with traditional cuisine bourgeois dishes, things aren't as thought out as it might seem from reading a well written recipe.  They're the way they are because everyone always did them that way, or because someone's grandmother did.  They work, and that's what's most important for starters.    

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2010
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  5. homecook61

    homecook61

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    Thank you so much for your reply!  Boy I am sure learning a lot here, I am going to stick around and read everything in this forum!  /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif   I appreciate you taking the time to explain to me and others who might be curious, the reasons behind why this technique (and others) are used.

    This forum is great!   
     
  6. homecook61

    homecook61

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    P.S.  I'm cooking boeuf bourguignon today for my husband's birthday, that's why I am asking all this.  I made the brown stock yesterday and today I'm having fun doing all the rest!
     
  7. homecook61

    homecook61

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    P.P.S. This past year or so I've been getting really excited about cooking.  I've made some recipes from Molly Simmon's great book, "All About Braising - The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking" and I'm absolutely hooked now.   

    Is anyone else sad when they see how few people cook at home anymore?  I have some relatives who actually laugh at me when I tell them I spend hours now prepping and cooking.  One relative told me her son, now 17, was learning to cook.  She was very proud of him.  He learned to go to the grocery store and pick out a can of Campbell's soup for each person in the family, and learned to add water and heat it up in a saucepan.  Reminds me of how I used to cook when I was in the Army.  I'm just sorry it took me so long to learn about cooking and to learn to appreciate "slow" cooking as opposed to fast food.   I feel we've really lost something in our culture here in America when we lost the love of cooking (or maybe we never had it?)   
     
  8. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I have no idea how you do it.     

    Come back in a year and you'll wonder why you wondered about this.

    Seriously. Like any new endeaver, cooking can seem overwhelming when you first start out. But the more you do it, the better at it you get. And, more to the point, you gain a better understanding of what is happening.

    That's one of the reasons those of us who teach cooking stress that techniques are more important than recipes. You can follow a recipe, and wind up making a great dish. But if you learn the techniques involved you'll soon be making all sorts of great dishes without recipes at all; or, at least, modifying and adapting a recipe to make it your own.
     
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  9. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    BDL, I'm afraid Pete is quite right about the roux.

    After searing the chunks of beef (a few at a time, and take your time to brown them quite well, this will color the sauce), they sprinkle some flour over the meat and let the flour cook in the fat that is remaining in the pot. This is indeed a roux. Normally it isn't done in the oven, but on the stove top, while stirring the meat, and let the flour cook a while to get in touch with the fat. The flourtaste will not disappear entirely at this moment, but when cooking the stew for a very long time, it will go away and bind the sauce, which is the reason why they use flour in this case.

    BTW, the meat is always salted and peppered just after browning it and before the flour is put on.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2010
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  10. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Chris, I don't want to start an argument, but BDL is absolutely correct in this instance.

    If you flour a protein it will, indeed, contribute to thickening the sauce. I often use that technique (albiet with cornstarch) with stir fries. But that's not the same as a roux, which is, as Boar points out, a specific mixture that creates a sauce-like flavoring agent that is also used as a thickener.

    To make a roux you combine equal parts of fat and flour, cook it to the point you want (based on color), then add hot liquid to it. The less you cook the fat/flour the greater it's thickening power. A really dark roux, in fact, contributes only flavor to a dish, and doesn't thicken it at all.

    If we continue this discussion I suggest we start a new thread with it, so as to not confuse HomeCook61.
     
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  11. homecook61

    homecook61

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    This is fascinating to me!  Thank you all so much for your replies!  You know, I would be so much more comfortable making a roux on top of the stove, like I'm used to, rather than in the oven.  It's easier to keep the meat tossed and turned on the stove top and easier to keep an eye on it IMHO. 

    I will try to learn more about techniques.  I am reading cookbooks and trying to understand things, and I am sure this forum will help me immensely! 

    I didn't learn anything about cooking growing up.  My Mom's idea of cooking was hot dogs out of a pack and macaroni and cheese from the blue box.  Then I was putting myself through school and then in the Army, and I was too tired and exhausted all the time to undertake learning about cooking.  Now I have free time and I have managed to cook some meals my husband has raved about, and so I got the "bug" so to speak.  Now I really want to learn more about how to cook!      
     
  12. homecook61

    homecook61

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    P.S.  Chris - I see you are from the Flanders section of Belgium.  I lived in Hoensbroek, the Netherlands, when I was in high school.  My father was stationed in Brunssum.  (That is the Flemish section of the Netherlands, of course!)  I grew to dearly love the Flemish people.  How I miss that part of the world!    
     
  13. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    KYHeirloomer, BDL also mentioned flouring before browning the meat. Is this what you are referring to? I know this is used -also in french cuisine- to seal the meat from loosing juices in first instance and thus keep it tender. Of course it can bind the sauce also, but that is not really what the initial purpose is.

    Flouring after browning the meat and let it get in contact with the browning fat is in fact... creating a roux that will bind the liquid. That's why stirring floured meat on a stovetop is a better way; to get all flour in contact with the fat. Stews are usually not made with tender meat.

    Two very different objectives.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2010
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  14. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Aha, that expaines the cooking passion popping up! Bloed kruipt waar het niet gaan kan. Still speak any dutch?
     
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  15. homecook61

    homecook61

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    Oh, Chris, I should have learned Dutch but I never learned more than a few words.  "Dankuwell" and "Alsteblief" and "Dag Mijnher" and I'm sure I spelled those wrong.  Oh I remember how good the food was there.  The food in the restaurants was incredible, the frites were the best I'd ever had, the beer was so delicious, and even the ice cream was incredible.  I came back to America and wondered why most of our food couldn't taste that good.  And I tried American beer for the first time when I came back to the States after having had Dutch and German beer and it was so bad I spit it out.  It was Budweiser or something like that, don't remember now.  But I couldn't believe they actually considered that stuff to be beer!  I still don't understand why we don't have better food in America unless you go to an expensive restaurant.  Even our produce in the stores doesn't seem as good generally as what I remember from Europe.  The one exception is the beef out West.  In places like Montana you can get beef that is so fresh and so delicious it will make you cry.

    About the roux - in this particular recipe, Julia Child says to pour off all the fat before tossing with flour so there isn't all that much fat the flour comes into contact with actually....I have cooked rouxes before for Creole/Cajun recipes and I do know the fat is important....

    This question raised a real debate!  I was thinking before I posted that maybe it was a dumb question, but maybe it wasn't such a dumb question after all!         
     
  16. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Normally you would have little fat in the cooking pot if you take your time to brown it well. Just stir the meat with some flour. It will look a bit messy but it will go away once you add the liquid.

    Removing fat also equals getting rid of a lot of taste!

    Also, you're very right about American beef: it's the best.
     
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  17. homecook61

    homecook61

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    A roux does look like sludge, doesn't it?  I thought that the first time I made one. 
     
  18. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Yeah, but this will look really ugly. The flour will almost immediately absorb all the fat and some will stick to the bottom of the pot. Keep stirring the meat, the flour needs to cook a few minutes like that.

    Enjoy and do let us know the results.
     
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  19. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    It's not really much of a debate.  Pete was using an analogy, and a good one.  But it was technically incorrect, so I pointed that out just to avoid any confusion.  Sometimes it seems like we're quibbling but we're just trying to get everyone on the same page and avoid confusion farther down the line.  And sometimes we're just quibbling.

    [​IMG]

    Chris wasn't familiar with the recipe.  Many (most?) boeuf burgignon recipes do have the cook make a roux; so do a lot of carbonnade à la flamande recpes as well.  If I were making boeuf burgignon, I'd probably go without a written recipe and do a roux.  But Julia didn't and hers doesn't.  It depends what you're trying to do. 

    Chris would have been right if he wasn't wrong.  But there you go.  Happens to the best of us... and me as well.

    KY said the same thing, but better.  What else is new?

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2010
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  20. homecook61

    homecook61

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    LOL - I went ahead and did it the way Julia Child said to, because it's my very first time cooking this recipe and I figured, I'll make it her way first and then later if I want to experiment, I can do so with a roux, etc.  But next time I will try it in the pan on top of the stove, as with a roux, because that way appeals to me more and I have hopes that it will create a similar result in the end.

    It's been simmering in the oven about an hour now and my home is starting to smell very good, so I hope that is a good sign! 

    I already made the chocolate and almond cake yesterday.  I have forgotten the proper French name of it.  I hope all together it will be a good meal!  I hope my husband will be pleased with the results.    

    P.S.  Now I better go braise the onions and then saute the mushrooms in butter, so I can add them at the end.   
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2010