There is nothing more French to me than Boeuf Bourguignon. It’s also a great meal to make for a crowd. As your guests arrive a hearty but perfectly sweet and intoxicating cloud will greet them. Describing the smell as rich is an understatement. Everything in this dish is rich – beef, butter, red wine, garlic, pearl-onions – so when they all come together in one bite it is pure, decadent, magic.
If you can’t tell by my description, I’m a sucker for French foods (and not just the fries). I’m not sure exactly what makes my love so strong, but it’s safe to say that the obscene amount of butter and that everything is cooked in wine both play a role. This dish in particular makes me want to curl up on the couch next to a wood-burning fireplace while snowflakes fall outside. Boeuf Bourguignon uses simple ingredients and warms your soul.
I’m certainly not alone in this thought. Julia Child describes Boeuf Bourguignon as “certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” This stew is definitely not my grandmother’s dried out version filled with various untouchables!
Boeuf Bourguignon adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Julia Child
You will need:
~ 6 ounces of bacon, don’t get slices of bacon, instead ask the butcher to cut you one large piece
~ olive oil
~ 3 lbs lean stew cut into 2-inch cubes
~ 1 sliced carrot
~ 1 sliced onion
~ 2 tbsp flour
~ 3 cups full-bodied young red wine
~ 2 to 3 cups beef stock, plus ½ cup for the white onions
~ 1 tbsp tomato past
~ 2 garlic cloves, mashed
~ ½ tsp fresh thyme
~ 1 bay leaf, crumbled
~ 18 to 24 small white onions
~ 1 herb bouquet, 4 parsley sprigs, ½ bay leaf, ¼ tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth
~ 1 lb quartered fresh mushrooms
~ salt and pepper to taste
Whew! That’s a long list, but luckily you should have most of it in your pantry.
Remove the rind from the bacon and cut it into ¼ inch thick and 1 ½ inch long sticks (or lardons). Simmer the rind in a small sauté-pan for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and dry.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Pour 1 tbsp oil into a large 3-inch deep pan that can go into the oven (you will be using this pan for cooking the beef and liquid together and will need an oven-proof lid). Saute the bacon lardons over medium heat until it is lightly brown. Then remove and set aside (don’t turn down the heat).
Wash and pat dry each piece of beef. While the pan and oil are still hot, add the beef a few pieces at a time, until each side is browned. I worked with about 6 pieces at a time. Remove the beef once browned and set aside with the bacon.
Keeping the pan hot, add the sliced vegetables. Remove vegetables and pour out the oil. Add the beef and bacon back to the pan and toss in flour. Place the pan into the oven uncovered for 4 minutes. Toss the beef and then cook for another 4 minutes. Remove and turn down the oven to 325°F.
Add wine and enough broth to slightly cover the beef. Add tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Mix thoroughly and bring to a simmer over medium to high heat. After a simmer is reached, cover the pan and put it towards the bottom of the oven. The beef should continue to simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours, but make sure to check the liquid every 20 minutes. If the liquid is simmering too aggressively, then you will over cook the meat.
While the beef is cooking, peel the onions. In a medium sized sauté pan, add 1 ½ tbsp oil and 1 ½ tbsp butter. When butter is bubbling add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes while rolling the onions around in the pan to coat each side.
Pour ½ cup beef broth, herb bouquet, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let simmer for 40 to 50 minutes (all of the liquid should evaporate and the onions should be tender but still hold their shape.). Remove herb bouquet before using.
Next, on to the mushrooms (I promise its worth it!). Put a small skillet over high heat with 2 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil. Once butter is bubbling, add mushrooms. Toss the skillet to coat the mushrooms evenly for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as the mushrooms are lightly browned, remove and set aside.
When the beef is tender, pour the beef mixture through a sieve or colander set over a sauce pan. Return the beef mixture to the original pan and put the sauce pan (now with the liquid) over medium high heat. Immediately, skim off the fat and then let simmer for a few minutes and skim again. Keep doing this until you have about 2 ½ cups of thickened liquid. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Add the mushrooms and onions to the beef mixture and return the sauce to the original pan. Simmer for a few minutes and then serve immediately. Julia suggests noodles, potatoes, or rice and I think its fantastic simply on its own!
P.S. The next day is even better.