Phil rarely requests a specific recipe for dinner, with the exception of my chicken parmigiana, that he craves on a regular basis. Last weekend, though, he did not even blink when I asked for ideas. Boeuf Bourguignon. Clearly, a man of fine tastes! It was my turn to cook on Sunday, so that was a perfect suggestion. With all our grocery shopping done the day before, I indulged in the preparation of this French classic all afternoon. The snow falling outside was a perfect setting for our dinner…
(adapted from Julia Child)
6 oz bacon
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup sliced onions
2 cups sliced carrots
1 bottle of red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 bouquet garni (tie 8 parsley sprigs, 1 large bay leaf, a few sprigs of dried thyme and wrap in cheese cloth)
24 pearl onions
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound cremini mushrooms, cut in large pieces
Blanch the bacon to remove its smoky taste by dropping the slices into 2 quarts of cold water, bringing to a boil, and simmering for 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and dry on paper towels.
In a large frying pan, sauté the blanched bacon to brown slightly in a little oil; set them aside. Brown the chunks of beef on all sides in the bacon fat and some olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and put them into a heavy casserole pan with a lid. Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and add to the browned beef.
Remove all but a little fat from the frying pan, add the sliced vegetables and brown them. Add the veggies to the casserole containing the beef and bacon. Deglaze the frying pan with the wine, mixing it well to dissolve all the browned bits left from browning the meat and veggies. Once it’s all deglazed, add the wine into the casserole along with enough stock to almost cover the meat. Stir in the tomatoes and add the herb bouquet. Bring to a simmer, cover, and place in a 325°F oven, until the meat is tender, about 3 hours.
While the stew is cooking, prepare the onions. Blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the onions and score the root end with 1/4 inch cuts. Sauté onions in a single layer in a tablespoon of butter until lightly browned. Add chicken stock or water half way up the sides of the onions. Add a teaspoon of sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 minutes or until tender. The onions should absorb most of the water. If there is water remaining after cooking, drain the excess. Set aside.
A few minutes before serving the stew saute’ the mushrooms in butter until browned and cooked through.
When the meat is tender, remove the bouquet garni from the cooking liquid, if necessary cook longer without the lid to reduce it further. Add the onions, mushrooms, and serve.
to print the recipe, click here
This is comfort food at its best! The big batch I made lasted us for three meals, and it was better and better each day. My only modification of the classic was omitting a beurre manie’ step at the end. Julia thickens her sauce with a mixture of butter and flour, but instead I cooked the meat longer in the oven, reducing the sauce without any need for thickening agents. It was luscious and plenty thick for our taste. In fact, on the last evening I had to add some water to the leftovers to thin it slightly.
When you make this dish, I’d say the most important step is browning the meat. You’ll need all that caramelization on the outside to give maximum flavor and a perfect texture at the end of the cooking time. It makes me think of a Zen proverb, full of the wise simplicity often associated with them: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” Not to make light of the Chinese wisdom, I’d like to add: “When browning the meat, brown the meat.” Do it slowly, do it mindfully, do it well. No crowding the pieces in the oil, no moving them around until they are properly seared. Enjoy the process!
ONE YEAR AGO: Chickpea Salad
TWO YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre
THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Onion and Asiago Cheese Miche (this bread is simply outstanding!)