What happened to the carrot and onions in Julia Child’s boeuf bourguinon?

About to add the wine... note vegetables on top. If this is wrong, I don't want to be right!

About to add the wine… note vegetables on top. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

I decided to make Julia Child’s boeuf bourguinon this weekend, following the recipe in my 1973 copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

She’s got a nice technique for working the flour into meat: brown the meat first, then mix it in the dry casserole with the flour and seasonings; give the uncovered casserole a little time in a hot oven, which incorporates the flour and adds a nice crust to the meat.

The recipe also contains an anomaly: after we’ve browned the meat, Julia tells us to saute a sliced onion and sliced carrot in the same oil, then throw away the oil. The carrot and onion are never mentioned again. My guess is that the vegetables go in at the beginning of the slow oven cooking which is what I did: they’ll cook away to nothing and add to the flavor.

Assuming this error might have been corrected in later editions of the cookbook, I went online and googled the recipe. Several bloggers had reproduced it–and every one repeated the non-instructions for the carrot and onion. One wonders what value they’re adding, if they don’t even read the recipes they’re copying. (There were also some bloggers who had done their own riffs on Julia’s boeuf borguinon, which is absolutely fine with me.)

On Burnt My Fingers, I don’t think we’ve ever reproduced a recipe without adding to it or modifying it in some way. (A possible exception is out-of-print cookbooks where you’re not likely to find the recipe on your own.) Even if the recipe is the same or almost the same, we create our own instructions since, although recipe formulas are are in the public domain, preparation descriptions are the property of the author under copyright law. Which means we’d be very unlikely to repeat an error or omission in the original author’s recipe.

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