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.
- 3 lbs Beef chuck cut in 1.5″ cubes
- 4 T Canola oil
- 3 t salt
- 1 T black pepper
- 7 T flour
- 5+1T butter
- 1 T thyme
- 5 bay leaves
- 4 oz tomato paste
- 5 cloves garlic
- 3 c beef stock
- 3 c dry red wine
- 12 oz pearl onions
- 12 oz button mushrooms
- 6 oz bacon (6 strips)
- 1/2 bunch parsley
- Trim and cut meat into cubes. Peel the pearl onions and garlic.
- Measure out all your ingredients and get them ready for cooking.
- Brown the beef cubes in a hot sauté pan in the oil. Do a little at a time so the meat gets browned well.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bring the meat and wine mix to a slow simmer and let cook for 1 hour.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!