Saturday, March 19, 2011

Beef Bourguignon

Nothing says French cooking like Beef Bourguignon, the classic beef stew in red wine that was Julia Child’s piece de resistance.  I had been making it for years with a recipe from a little paperback cookbook of my Mom’s from the nineteen fifties (pictured above), and it was not a bad recipe.  But when the wife gave me Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child’s classic treatise on French cuisine, I modified my recipe to be more in line with Julia’s.  As Julia herself says, “there are more ways than one to arrive at a good Boeuf Bourguignon.”   I didn’t switch completely over to her recipe, because I like cooking the dish completely on the stove top, rather than in the oven as a casserole.

Mine is also a bit more of a hasty version than Julia’s; you can pull it off in two hours if you're quick, and use a more tender cut of meat, like sirloin tip. If you go with chuck or round, an extra hour or two of cooking would be in order.

Beef Bourguignon

3 strips thick cut smoked bacon
Olive Oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into chunks
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cups full bodied red wine
2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves diced garlic
1 teaspoon thyme
Bay leaf, crumbled
20 or so small white onions, peeled
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced.
1 teaspoon cornstarch and a quarter cup water

Cut the bacon into lardons, or little matchsticks about a quarter of an inch across.

Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven or deep pan with the olive oil, and fry the matchsticks of bacon until they are brown and begin to crisp.

Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Next, saute the beef chunks a little at a time for a few minutes each, until all sides are brown.

Remove the beef and set aside.

In the same pan, saute the sliced carrots and onion.

Return the beef and bacon to the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and beef stock. Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to a simmer, and let cook on top of the stove for at least one hour. (more time if using tougher cuts of meat).

Keep an eye on it so that it does not boil–you want a slow simmer so the meat tenderizes and the flavors meld, but you don’t lose all of your liquid.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the little onions and mushrooms. I use a little trick to make peeling the onions easier. I drop them in boiling water for about a minute or two, then strain. The peels will slip right off. (They are otherwise very difficult to peel).

Saute the onions in olive oil for until they are lightly browned. Set aside.

Saute the mushrooms in butter until they are golden and have stopped giving out any liquid.

When your beef/wine mixture has reduced by about a half, add the mushrooms and boiler onions. Mix the cornstarch with the water, and add it to your stew, stirring until it thickens. You can serve immediately, or prepare up to one day ahead. Your Beef Bourguignon will surprisingly gain flavor when reheated.

Here we’ve served it up with some fluffy mashed potatoes, and a crusty French baguette.

Bon Appetit