I saw the movie, I read the related books, I watched some old TV clips...and then I headed to the kitchen. Looking back, I can clearly see the errors that led to my disappointment, but my head was in the culinary clouds.
Let's start with the recipe: Julia Child's famous Boeuf Bourguignon. I studied the recipe—I mean really studied it—then shopped for all the ingredients. Next came the cooking. I've never followed a recipe more precisely. One of my worst faults is improvisation in the kitchen, but not on this day. Everything was measured, steps were in order, temps and times followed religiously. The kitchen smelled wonderful all afternoon—which is how long it took to prepare this classic—it can't be rushed.
Let me repeat something I knew, but thought did not apply to this particular culinary homage: if it looks like beef stew, and smells like beef stew, it's probably Beef Stew! And frankly, not the best beef stew I've ever eaten.
Looking back at the ingredients, I should have been more realistic. I expected the sauce to be very rich, and push the beef into taste euphoria. It was good, certainly tasty, but not over the top. I used the best burgundy Food Lion sells, and my meat was a good cut—much better than the usual hodge podge I use when making plain old beef stew, and I didn't rush the slow oven cooking.
When it comes right down to the bottom line, nobody knows more about turning beef scraps into a delicious stew than we Southerners, and my grandmother was obviously a culinary genius. You can add all the wine, fine mushrooms, and pearl onions you want, but it's not one bit better—maybe not even as good.
I think I picked the wrong JC recipe to obsess over.