Just when Pete’s existential crisis couldn’t get any deeper, propelled in part by the first pictures of Earth from space making the planet look insignificant in the vastness of space,
Don’s life is looking pretty sweet. Last week Megan, who is un peu more comfortable in the kitchen than Betty, was serving up Dover Sole and in this week’s episode (“Lady Lazarus”) Don comes home to beef bourguignon. Boeuf bourguignon, classic French beef stew in red wine with braised onions and mushrooms, were the first words uttered by Julia Child on the very first episode (titled, of course, “Beef Bourguignon”) of what would become the legendary TV show, The French Chef, in 1963. (See recipe below.) “Carefully done and perfectly flavored,” Julia once said, “it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” It’s a natural for Megan who hails from French stock herself. Just taste it!
Cool Whip was the other gastronomic event on Mad Men last night. Bird’s Eye introduced the “frozen non-dairy whipped topping” in 1967 (along with gelatin salad mixes and 5-minute vegetables); it was part of an onslaught of processed food substitutes, an era when the culinary theory seemed to be “there’s nothing in nature that man can’t improve upon.” And, so, natural whipped cream yielded to the convenience of faux whipped cream from a container. We saw Don, Peggy and Ken at the General Foods test kitchen in Rochester, NY (where they were tasting and pitching an ad campaign) because Cool Whip was in fact being tested in 1966 (the current Mad Men year) in preparation for its market debut the following year.
So what exactly is Cool Whip? The original contained water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (including coconut and palm oils), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skim milk, light cream, sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), natural and artificial flavor, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, and beta carotene (as a coloring). Wow — almost sounds like a Twinkie! Cool Whip, quickly became Bird’s Eye’s best-selling product and by the early 1970s, when television advertising made the topping hugely popular, recipes abounded for desserts made with frozen whipped topping.
Good thing, too, because, as The New York Times reported on August 29, 1967, according to Andrall Pearson, a director of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., product diversification was going to be the key to success for makers of grocery products such as Bird’s Eye. “Industry has reached a point of equilibrium where it tougher to come up with better new products and sustain them,” said Pearson. “It would be hard to imagine a more demanding – and just plain tough—competitive environment than in the grocery business over the next ten years.”
Coincidentally, that article, part of the day’s advertising column, mentioned a restaurant where Don ate dinner last night. Danny’s Hideaway was the largest of the many steak houses (eleven rooms seating 300 customers) on East 45th Street between Lexington Avenue and First once known as Steak Row. Others included Joe and Rose’s, and, because these eateries catered to employees of mid-town’s publishing and advertising firms, places with names such as The Pressbox, The Editorial and Pen and Pencil. Today, they’d be named The Blogosphere, The iPad and Blackberry.
For those who aspire to cook like Megan, here’s Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon.
BOEUF BOURGUIGNON (Boeuf à la Bourguignonne) Beef Stew in Red Wine with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms
Julia Child's classic recipe for boeuf bourguignon, French beef stew in red wine with braised onions and mushrooms from Mad Men, Season 5.
“Carefully done and perfectly flavored,” Child once said, “it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (Knopf, 1961)
- Serve with boiled potatoes, rice or noodles.
- 6-ounce chunk of bacon
- 9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole, 3 inches deep
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
- Slotted spoon
- 3 pounds lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 sliced carrot
- 1 sliced onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups of a full-bodied young red wine, or a Chianti
- 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- A crumbled bay leaf
- Blanched bacon rind
- 18 to 24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock.
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered, sautéed in butter
- Parsley sprigs
- Remove rind, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 cups of water. Drain and dry.
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Sauté bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.
- Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.
- In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.
- Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in the middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325°F.
- Stir in the wine and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
- While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.
- When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
- Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If it is too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. *Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.
- For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice and decorated with parsley.
- For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.