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Boeuf Bourguignon

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As we walked through the Bastille market on a rainy Sunday last time in Paris, we looked at the amazing white asparagus and fresh strawberries that the produce vendors were selling. Every one of them was picture perfect and without a blemish. Next was the fishmonger with fresh St Pierre looking at you with big eyes. Then oysters that they would quickly pry open for you to enjoy with some Muscadet from the wine trader next door. There were all manner of beef cuts, chickens, ducks, pork, and lamb at the butcher stands and the bakers had baskets full of baguettes, batards, boules, and baked goods which smelled like fresh-baked, yeasty heaven. On the next table were all manner of olives and pickles that were seasoned and marinated with citrus, garlic, vinegar, and all sorts of herbs.

In the midst of it all there stood an old lady that could have been in a Renoir painting selling violets, lily of the valley, and lilacs that sent their sweet perfume all around.

Then there was a different kind of perfume with the cheese monger hawking his creamy brie and camembert along with nutty Emmental.

There was food all around, glorious food with intoxicating aromas making us very hungry. As we strolled past the stand with the hams and various dry sausages hanging, we were finally drawn in by the display of huge cauldrons of food cooking. There was Paella which is popular at markets along with Cassoulet and of course Boeuf Bourguignon.

We got a couple of bowls of the rich stew, a fresh batard and a bottle of Cote du Rhone from the wine merchant, plopped ourselves down on a park bench as is common and enjoyed our delicious feast while taking in all the sights and sounds of the market.

This is quite possibly my favorite beef dish and certainly one of the best comfort foods I can think of.

The first time I had this dish was when my mother made it and I was barley a teenager. Delicious, tender cubes of beef, sweet pearl onions, tasty mushrooms in a fabulous red wine and beef sauce, topped with crispy strips of bacon and served with crunchy fresh baguettes to soak up the sauce. I love this dish and of course it only got better later as I added some red wine to wash it down.

My choice for meat is beef shoulder which has enough connective tissues and fat to stay together and not dry out after long cooking and reheating while being tender enough to cut with a spoon. You can use chuck as well which has a bit more fat or bottom round which is slightly leaner.

Small button mushrooms about the size of a quarter, small white onions about the same size, red wine, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves are standard ingredients as well.

A note on the onions – they can be small yellow ones, cippolini, pearl or shallots if you can not find any others. There will be quite a few of them and they will need to be peeled which will involve a lot of crying. You can of course cheat and buy frozen peeled ones but it doesn’t mean you should.

Although I have served this dish at several restaurants and usually during “Bistro” evenings, I enjoy it the most when it is made at home and shared with friends, crusty baguettes, and plenty of red wine. This is a basic French beef stew, served in homes and bistros.

Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.

Boeuf Bourguignon

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Recipe by Jiri Krejcir Course: DinnerCuisine: French, BistroDifficulty: Medium
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

3

hours 

30

minutes
Calories

kcal
Total time

3

hours 

50

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2.25 lbs 2.25 Beef chuck trimmed and diced 1.5 inch cubes

  • 2 Tbs 2 vegetable oil

  • 1 tsp 1 salt

  • 1 tsp 1 pepper

  • 4 cloves 4 garlic crushed

  • 2 tsp 2 thyme

  • 3 whole 3 bay leaves

  • 3 tbs 3 tomato paste

  • 2.5 cups 2.5 dry red wine

  • 2.5 cups 2.5 beef stock/veal stock or dark chicken stock

  • 3+1 Tbs 3+1 butter

  • 4 Tbs 4 flour

  • pearl onions peeled

  • button mushrooms

  • 4 slices 4 bacon cooked crisp

  • 2 Tbs 2 parsley chopped fine

Directions

  • Gather all ingredients. Peel, wash, cut and chop as specified in the recipe. Measure out all your ingredients and prepare your cooking area.
  • Heat your skillet on medium heat, when hot, add 1 Tbs oil. Dry the meat with a clean kitchen rag or paper towels and place about half of it in the pan. Make sure it is in a single layer with plenty of room – do not crowd the pan. Brown the meat on all sides then move the pieces to the Dutch oven/soup pot and repeat with the rest of the oil and meat being careful to avoid burning the pieces. When all the meat is browned and in the soup pot, add 1/2 cup of the wine and 1/2 cup of the stock to the skillet and cook while scraping all the browned pieces from the bottom of the pan.
  • Turn the soup pot to low and add the thyme, pepper, bay leaves, tomato paste and crushed garlic to the meat and mix well. (If you use an unsalted stock – add the salt otherwise wait until it has cooked for 1 hour and taste it to see if you need to add salt and add it by the tea spoon being careful not to over salt). Add the wine and stock and also the wine/stock mix from the pan. Bring to a boil and immediately lower to a simmer
  • Cook the meat for 90 minutes then brown the onions and mushroom in 1 Tbs butter and add to the pot with beef. Simmer for 90 minutes more and check for tenderness. When the beef is tender, remove the pot from the heat and strain the cooking liquids into a separate container, leave the beef, mushrooms and onions in the soup pot.
    In a separate 1.5 qt pot, melt the 3 Tbs of butter on medium until the milk solids start to brown, add the flour and whisk while cooking (making roux). Cook about 5 minutes to get light brown color now add the cooking liquids from the beef while stirring. Cook the sauce for about 10 minutes stirring with a whisk then strain it back into the pot with the beef.
  • Keep cooking on low heat while stirring. If too thick – add more wine. Keep cooking and test a meat cube for tenderness – it should be very tender.
    Taste and adjust seasoning. You can now serve it garnished with chopped parsley, crispy bacon and some warm crusty French bread.

Equipment

  • frying pan/skillet or cast iron pan 9-10u0022, tongs for moving the meat, 3qt soup pot or Dutch oven, stirring spoon.
  • Cutting board, chef’s knife, paring knife, garlic press, can opener, measuring cups and spoons
  • 1.5 qt pot, strainer and whisk

Notes

  • If you make your own stock without salt then season the meat with salt and add a spoonful of good beef base. If the stock has salt, start slow with any added salt.
  • Drying the meat and searing it in a hot pan improves quality of the final dish.
  • Chuck is the best cut to use, it may look fatty but the fat melts into the sauce and the meat will be super tender.
  • You can melt the butter in the pot with the browned beef and add the flour along with the seasoning, stirring it in well – this is an easier way. Cooking the beef in the stock and wine – then straining it and thickening it and straining it back into the beef is more work but the sauce will be nicer and smoother. You also run less risk of burning the dish if you forget to stir it.
  1. Trim and cut meat into cubes. Peel the pearl onions and garlic.
    1. Measure out all your ingredients and get them ready for cooking.
    2. Brown the beef cubes in a hot sauté pan in the oil. Do a little at a time so the meat gets browned well.
    3. Transfer to a large pot over low heat in which you have melted the 5 T of butter. As you transfer the meat to the pot, sprinkle with some of the flour, salt and pepper each time and mix well.
    4. When all the meat is browned and transferred to the big pot, add the bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste and pressed garlic cloves. Mix well  and add the beef stock and red wine.
    5. Bring the meat and wine mix to a  slow simmer and let cook for 1 hour.
    6. Brown the mushrooms and onions in the rest of the butter and add to the pot of stew. Simmer another 1.5 hours or until the meat is fork tender.
    7. Taste the sauce and adjust salt and pepper. At this point you can thin the sauce with more wine or stock or thicken with beurre manie ( equal parts of soft butter and flour mixed well). If you thicken the sauce, you will need to cook it for an additional 30 minutes or so until the flour taste disappears.
    8. Crisp the bacon in a pan and chop the parsley. Garnish each plate with some bacon and parsley, serve with warm baguette and plenty of red wine!

Bon Appetit!

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