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PARTY LINE : In a Stew on Opening Night

September 30, 1993|KATHIE JENKINS

The limos were lined up around the block for the L.A. Opera company's opening-night performance at the Music Center earlier this month of "La Boheme," conducted by Placido Domingo. In Los Angeles, opening night at the opera traditionally launches the fall social season, and this year was no exception. As one opera-goer put it: "You got the feeling the opera was only a prelude to the party."

L.A.'s social kingpins dined and danced until midnight on the outdoor Music Center plaza, which was transformed into a 19th-Century Parisian street scene complete with can-can dancers, jugglers, ballerinas and a marching band. Mary Hayley, who designed the set, dressed for the part in a can-canny puff of burgundy and black lace.

Veteran publicist Claire Segal got a tad uneasy when actress Kathy Bates asked to be introduced to opera singer Kallen Esperian, who played Mimi. "Kallen is very charming and very young," says Segal, "and truthfully, I wasn't sure she'd know who Kathy Bates was." But before Segal could make the introduction, an excited Esperian leaped up. Turns out she was a big fan of Bates.

Pavilion Catering, which caters all Music Center events, fed the 650 hungry guests with a bistro-style menu of pate, French sausages, Champagne grapes, crudites and boeuf Bourguignon . Instead of flowers, table centerpieces were big baskets full of crudites and French breads. "Everybody ate up a storm," says Segal. "When you pay $650 for opera and dinner. . ."

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Although this boeuf Bourguignon was served in individual ramekins with a pastry crust on top ("It looked almost like a chicken pot pie," says Segal), it's just as good served with steamed rice or noodles, salad and crusty bread. If you want to use a pastry topping, roll out your favorite savory pastry dough recipe to fit a nine-inch shell and use it to cover an oven-proof casserole dish. Slash the top, crimp the edges and bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes, or until well-browned.

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BOEUF BOURGUIGNON

6 tablespoons butter 1/4 cup peanut oil 3 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes 20 baby onions 2 shallots, sliced 1/2 pound bacon, trimmed and diced 1 750-milliter bottle red wine, preferably Pinot Noir or Burgundy 2 carrots, peeled and diced 2 baby turnips, peeled and diced 1 large potato, peeled and diced 1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley) 1 clove garlic 1 teaspoon tomato paste 10 ounces small button mushrooms Salt, pepper 2 tablespoons minced parsley

Heat 4 tablespoons butter and peanut oil in large flame-proof casserole. Add beef and brown, about 5 minutes. Use slotted spoon to transfer beef to plate and set aside.

Add baby onions, shallots and bacon to juices left in casserole. Brown lightly. Return beef to casserole. Add enough wine to cover. Add carrots, turnips, potato, bouquet garni, garlic and tomato paste. Bring slowly to boil, then cover and simmer on low 3 hours.

About 10 minutes before serving, rinse and dry mushrooms. Saute in skillet with remaining 2 tablespoons butter over high heat until lightly browned.

Use slotted spoon to remove beef, bacon and onions and place in heated serving dish. Surround with mushrooms. Bring remaining contents of casserole to boil and reduce until slightly thickened. Strain and pour over meat. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each of 6 servings contains about:

768 calories; 523 mg sodium; 167 mg cholesterol; 47 grams fat; 19 grams carbohydrates; 49 grams protein; 1.32 grams fiber.

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