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
Chicken stock
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!)


  1. Sally, your observations concerning the ‘enjoyment of the process’ hits home with me. It is an aspect of cooking that I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older and further along in my time cooking for my wife and sons.

    Both boys are in high school now. We are looking at 1/2 an empty nest when our eldest leaves for college this fall. Cooking for my wife and boys has been a major part of my life (and my love) for the last 18 years! I take great care to bring as much focus on detail as time allows, and I especially relish the time in the kitchen when I can bring everything I’ve learned and experienced into play when preparing a meal for my family.

    Thank you for a poignant reminder of just how special the process is.


    • Agree with you completely! Maybe that’s why I love baking bread so much, it is an activity in which the process is everything… cannot be rushed, should not be rushed, and the results pay off big time…

      thanks for your comment!


  2. I so agree with your Phil, Sally. There’s nothing like Boeuf Bourguignon this time of year. I make it one day and serve it the next. That means for 2 days my kitchen smells like heaven, although it’s more a curse on Day One than a blessing. 🙂 Still, it’s a great meal and your recipe sounds terrific! I bet it was met with broad smiles at your dinner table — and well it should!


    • Isn’t that true? I often make it for dinner parties, this dish, coq au vin, braised short ribs, and of course making one day ahead is a key for success… but, it’s hard to be around the kitchen feeling those intoxicating smells… and sticking the whole thing in the fridge. Eat a sandwich and go to bed 😉


  3. This is exactly the recipe I’ve used in the past, and it always turns out savory and satisfying. The other day, I made Jacques Pepin’s version, and although it was tasty, I prefer Julia’s. Pepin uses no liquid other than a full bottle of red wine. The result is intensely winey but less beefy than Julia’s/your version.


  4. I made this a couple of weeks ago for the first time on the occasion of our eldest’s 30th bday. I followed Julia’s recipe and as I had two different books noticed slight differences. In the original book she doesn’t thicken with flour but does in The French Chef book. I chose to thicken with the butter and flour mixture to my chagrin. Before thickening, I had a lovely rich smooth sauce, perhaps a little runny but not overly so. After thickening it was not nearly as nice. I wouldn’t say exactly gluey, but not the lustrous sauce it had been. I was the only one who knew what it could have been. The guests all loved it, but I will never thicken it again.


    • Very interesting! I am glad I followed my intuition – I actually prefer not to use thickening agents in sauces, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Some recipes call for coating the meat with flour before browning, and that usually is more than enough to get a thick sauce, but in this case not even that was needed.

      thanks for your input!


  5. I haven’t made Boeuf Bourguignon in years, this is such a great reminder of why I should! Bacon, cremini mushrooms, the smoky flavour… ah, talk about ideal snowflake eats. I’ll try really, really, hard not to take shortcuts although I’ll admit the desire to flip before time will be hard to resist 😉 – wherever you go, there you are.


  6. Wonderful, wonderful recipe, Sally! Funny, I have been craving boeuf bourguignon myself for a while. Maybe because I left my laptop open on the Bewitching Kitchen page and all these delicious roasting and stewing fragrances came wafting my way…
    Have you seen the Melissa Clark article about Beans Bourguignon (same kind of wine stew but without the red meat) ( I will try that next since I often cook not only for us but for other family members who live nearby and one of them doesn’t eat beef at all. But if the beans fail to satisfy (as they well might), I’ll come straight back to your boeuf bourguignon. I especially love the idea of foregoing the flour and letting the stew thicken up by itself in the oven. Brilliant!


    • I love Melissa Clark! Will check out that link, interesting take on the classic

      Isn’t it amazing how simple ingredients can come together to make a masterpiece of a dish? I have mixed feelings about molecular gastronomy. Part of me (the chemistry-geek) loves how you can play with ingredients and create the unexpected. But a bigger part of me thinks that no one will every grow up missing “Grandma’s Arugula Agar Spaghetti” 😉


  7. I have never heard of doing that thing with the bacon before, but I guess that is because I buy unsmoked bacon so it doesn’t arise. Or should I be buying smoked bacon for this dish? No matter, it looks quite splendid and I suspect the smell drives the dogs mad while it is cooking too !


Click here to comment, love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s