The classic French beef stew, beef marinated and then slowly braised in wine. Worthy of a special occasion. Just making it may create an occasion!
Beef Bourguignon is a luxurious beef stew. (Stew?!) So says me, paraphrasing Julia Child who stripped pâté of all pretension by deconstructing it to ‘luxurious cold meatloaf’. (Meatloaf?!)
Made with meat, wine and vegetables, Beef Bourguignon is nothing more than beef stew -- and at the same time, much more.
At the other end of the time spectrum is Beef Bourguignon, made over three days. It uses all the same ingredients but feels like quite a production, in fact IS quite a production, the stuff of which lore is made. So yes, Beef Bourguignon is beef stew but making it, well, it’s deserving of an occasion.
An occasion is just what happened this month when life converged: friends mentioned wanting to try elk meat, an easy substitute for beef, the same day I began to collect Beef Bourguignon recipes for a Valentine’s post about romantic meals for BlogHer. Thus was an occasion born, a feast.
LANGUAGE NOTES The hardest thing about Beef Bourguignon may be the spelling. The anglicized spelling is Bourguignon and I also see the French spelling, Beouf Bourguignonne. It means in the ‘style of Burgundy’, one of France’s most famous wine regions and appellations. It is pronounced [boor-gee-NYON].
WINE NOTES Naturally, many cooks suggest marinating the beef in a wine from Burgundy, whose red wines are mostly made from pinot noir grapes. Is a French wine necessary? Must we spend a pile of money on a really good wine? For me, I would invest in good meat and a good wine to drink with the meal, spending less on the wine used to marinate (no plonk, however). During cooking, the wine and the meat become one, there’s no ‘taste’ of wine, there’s no liquid gravy.
This recipe is completely inspired, through Day Two, by the cookbook Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen, authored by Clotilde Dusoulier of the Paris food blog Chocolate & Zucchini. Her personal whimsical touch is the chocolate, used to balance the wine’s acidity.
DAY THREE’s TECHNIQUE Most recipes for Beef Bourguignon include pearl onions and mushrooms right from the beginning. My favorite cooking partner is teaching me new techniques that create layers of flavor and texture. So we chose to separately cook the onions and mushrooms at the end, then stir them into the long-cooked stew just before serving. This was a brilliant touch, if I may say, one worth repeating.
TIMING One of my favorite things about Beef Bourguignon is that it is made entirely in advance. Even the potatoes can be made in advance, think about Party Potatoes or the make-ahead version of Lighter Mashed 'Potatoes'. For this reason, I think it's a perfect dish, say, to serve after another event, an afternoon at the theater or football game. I can also imagine taking along the whole pot if spending the weekend with friends. Even the pearl onion, shallot and mushroom mixture could be prepared in advance, though not added to the stew until it's being warmed.
For anyone who appreciates being able to plan their days, for Day One, allow 30-45 minutes hands-on time. For Day Two, allow 1 hour of active hands-on time, then regular checking for about 3 – 4 hours, then 30 minutes of active hands-on time. For Day Three, allow 45 minutes of hands-on time.
one magnificent feast
Time to table: 3 days
Serves about 8
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast or 4 pounds bone-in beef roast, trimmed well and cut into two-inch pieces (this seems big but the pieces will shrink)
- 1 bottle dry red wine
- If needed, beef stock, preferably homemade, to cover
- 6 ounces bacon, cut into small pieces
- 2 ounces dark chocolate
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup chopped shallot
- 6 ounces pearl onions, red or white
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 6 ounces small white button mushrooms, trimmed and halved
- About 2 cups red wine or beef stock (just enough to half cover)
DAY ONE: MARINATE Combine all the Day One ingredients in a large glass or ceramic container. Cover and refrigerate for 12 – 24 hours.
DAY TWO: BRAISE In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon. Separately, transfer the cooked bacon and the bacon fat to small bowls.
While the bacon cooks, remove the chunks of meat from the marinade and set aside. Strain the vegetables through a colander, saving the wine-broth liquid. Fish out the bay leaves but reserve.
Add a tablespoon or two of the bacon fat to the Dutch oven and heat on medium high until shimmery. Add the vegetables and stir to coat with fat. Cook until just beginning to soften, set aside.
Add a tablespoon or two of the bacon fat to the Dutch oven. Add meat pieces, just enough to cover the bottom in a single layer; let cook without moving for about 2 minutes a side. Set the cooked meat pieces aside, then repeat the process with remaining meat.
Combine the cooked vegetables, meat, wine-broth liquid and the bay leaves in the Dutch oven and bring to a boil on medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook for 3 – 4 hours. IMPORTANT: For the first hour or so, check the stew ever 5-10 minutes. Cloudy gunk (that’s a technical term) will accumulate on the top of the liquid, skim it off with a slotted spoon and discard. After awhile, the clear wine-broth liquid will become visible below but keep skimming off the gunk as long as it appears. Once the gunk has disappeared, stir in the chocolate and cooked bacon pieces.
After cooking for 3-4 hours, remove the cover, fish out the bay leaves and increase the heat to a achieve a fast simmer. Once it’s simmering, sprinkle the meat with the arrowroot and stir in. Cook off the liquid, stirring often, until most of the liquid has thickened and the meat is coated with the resulting sauce. Turn off the heat, uncover to let cool, recover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
DAY THREE: FINISH & SERVE About 2 hours before serving, place the Dutch oven in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 200F to gently rewarm.
In a large skillet, melt the 1 tablespoon butter on medium heat until just beginning to sizzle. Add the shallots and gently cook until just soft. Reserve.
HOW TO PEEL PEARL ONIONS Rinse the onions (skins still on) in a colander under running water. Drop into a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and place in cold water for 3 minutes. One by one, trim off the root end, then start to trim off the stem end, the tiny bit of onion will pop right out.
In the same skillet, melt the 3 tablespoons butter on medium heat until just beginning to sizzle. Add the onions and mushroom halves, then the wine or beef stock, just enough to half cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in the shallots. Gently stir this mixture into the meat and return to the oven for another 15 – 30 minutes.
Serve the meat over mashed potatoes or another vegetable puree.
Beef Bourguignon on Day One
A Menu Starring Beef Bourguignon
Low-Carb Mashed 'Potatoes' or Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Fried Bread *
Lettuce greens tossed with orange pieces, Parmesan slivers and My Favorite Salad Dressing, a simple vinaigrette
Lemon Pots with Lemon Cookies
Coffee and Tea
* FRIED BREAD Slice hearty bread into smaller pieces, fry in a skillet with olive oil and a clove of chopped garlic.
More Recipes for Special Occasions
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