Is There Rage Left in the Bull? How About Some Stew?

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case of copyright infringement involving the 1980 movie “Raging Bull.” The underlying lawsuit is about whether the 1980 movie infringes on a book and two screenplays created by the boxer Jake LaMotta and a friend, Frank P. Petrella. 1980 seems like a long time ago. That’s pretty much the issue that the Supreme Court will address – whether the lawsuit was filed too late. Mr. Petrella’s daughter filed the lawsuit but didn’t do so until 2009, 29 years after the movie. The Copyright Act provides for a three-year statute of limitations, which Ms. Petrella contends gets restarted every time there is an act of infringement. The district court granted summary judgment to the film studio based on the doctrine of laches – that Ms. Petrella sat on her rights and could no longer enforce them. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Scotusblog has a link to the Supreme Court filings here.

But all this talk of bull made me think of beef. The weather is starting to cool down, and it is turning into good weather for stews. One of my favorite stews is beef bourguignon and, in particular, Ina Garten’s (a/k/a Barefoot Contessa) recipe is easy and delicious. I can’t help it – sorry Julia Child. And another quick copyright tidbit – lists of ingredients generally aren’t protectable by copyright. The recipe is below (directions are mine as though they are protected by copyright).

1 T. olive oil
8 oz. bacon, diced
2 ½ lbs. beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Black Pepper
1 lb carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 onions, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic
½ cup cognac or brandy
1 bottle (750 ml) red wine (e.g. Burgundy (for which the stew is named) or pinot noir)
2-2 ½ cups beef broth
1 T tomato paste
1 tsp. thyme leaves
4 T (1/2 stick or 2 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 T flour
1 lb. frozen pearl onions
1 lb mushrooms, thickly sliced

Heat the oil in a large pot that has a lid, such as a Dutch Oven or stock pot. Add bacon and stir until lightly browned. Remove bacon but keep drippings in the pot.

Consider removing the beef from the fridge to let it warm up before cooking it (we’re talking an hour or even a few). Some people will gasp in horror, but adding cold beef to a hot pan will make it harder to get a good sear on the beef. Pat the beef cubes dry (otherwise they will not sear, develop a crust, and you will miss out on those wonderful brown bits that give depth of flavor). Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper and sear on all sides. Don’t crowd the beef or the temperature of the pot will drop causing the beef to steam. Work in batches if necessary. Remove the browned beef and set aside.

Add to the pot the carrots, sliced onions, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. pepper, and stir until the onions are slightly browned. Add the garlic and stir for one minute (don’t brown the garlic as it will turn bitter). Add the Cognac, and carefully light with a match. There are enough alcohol vapors, you will just need to bring the match to the edge of the pot or so – you will probably not need to get the match close to the liquid. Be careful and stand back when you light the Cognac, unless you enjoy the smell of singed hair or are not emotionally attached to your eyebrows. Put the meat and bacon back in the pan along with any juices. Add the wine, tomato paste, and thyme. Add enough enough beef broth until the meet is not quite covered. Place the lid on the pot and maintain at a low simmer for about 1 ¼ hours until the meat is very tender when pierced with a fork. (Alternatively, place the pot in a preheated 250 degree oven).

Mix 2 T of the room temp butter (1/4 stick or 1 oz.) with flour into a paste, then stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a separate pan, melt the remaining butter and brown the mushrooms. Again, be careful not to crowd the pan, otherwise the mushrooms will steam as opposed to browning. Add the mushrooms to the stew. Bring the stew back to a boil, then simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve with toasted French bread, egg noodles, or whatever starch you fancy.