May 14, 2012

Beef Bourguignon

Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us
to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.

A few years ago, when my son was in preschool, his teacher asked him what he'd eaten for dinner the night before. As his teacher laughingly recounted to me, my then 4-year old turned to her and said, "Beef Bourguignon!"

So this isn't the first time I've made this dish. But it's something I'm happy to make again and again.

If you've never made beef Bourguignon, I urge you to try. And not just any recipe. This recipe. Julia Child's recipe. 

Yes, it's a little daunting. And a little time-, effort- (and saucepan-) consuming. But it's worth it. Because by making the effort to render the bacon fat, pat the meat cubes dry, braise the onions, sauté the mushrooms, and wait patiently for the whole thing to cook up, you are rewarded with the best possible version of this dish. You end up with meat that's flavorful and fork tender. With tasty mushrooms and tender onions. And the pièce de résistance — a rich, thick, complex, glossy sauce that has layers and layers of flavor.

I started with a large piece of beef.

Then cut it into cubes.

Pat the meat cubes dry with a paper towel. This is an important step that helps the meat to brown nicely.

Fry the bacon until it crisps up. Remove the bacon but leave the fat in the pan.

Add the beef to the fat, a few pieces at a time.

Sear the beef until it's golden brown on all sides.

Once all the beef has been seared, set it aside. In the same pan, brown the carrots and onions.

Add the beef back to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and flour and put the pan in a hot oven for 4 minutes.

Take it out, toss the beef around, then put it back in the oven for another 4 minutes. This browns the flour and gives the meat a light crust.

Put the pan back on the stove. Add the wine, broth and tomato paste. Then add the garlic and herbs. Bring it to a simmer.

Put the cover on the pan then let it simmer gently in the oven for a few hours until the meat is tender.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Peel the onions.

Brown them in a mixture of butter and olive oil.

Then let them simmer away in beef stock until they are tender but still intact.

For the mushrooms, heat them on high heat in a mixture of butter and olive oil.

Cook until golden brown.

Remove the stew from the oven when the meat is tender. It will look like this.

Now pour the stew into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Clean out your Dutch oven or whatever pan you cooked the stew in. Then put the meat and veggies right back in. Add the onions and carrots to the pan too.

Simmer your sauce until it thickens to the proper consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Pour it over the meat and veggies.

Serve in a large bowl with a slice of good bread to soak up the sauce. Bon appétit!

Beef Bourguignon

Recipe very slightly adapted from Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking

6 oz streaky bacon
1 Tbsp Olive oil
3 lbs stewing beef cut into 2 inches cubes (rump pot roast is best)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp flour
3 cups young red wine (Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Chianti —
a good wine, but not necessarily an expensive one)
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 to 3 cups beef stock
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
½ tsp thyme leaves (I added extra)
1 bay leaf
the blanched bacon rind
18-24 small onions, brown-braised in stock (see recipe, below)
1 lb mushrooms, sautéed in butter (see recipe, below)
Fresh parsley sprigs to serve

1.    Prepare the bacon. If necessary, remove the rind. Cut the bacon into lardons (sticks, ¼ inch thick and ½ inch long). Simmer everything in 4 cups of water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry carefully with paper towels. (Okay, I admit it, I didn't blanch the bacon. I did the first time I made this dish and honestly, I didn't think it made much difference.)

2.    Dry the meat cubes carefully with paper towels.

3.    Preheat oven to 450º F.

4.    In a Dutch oven, sauté the bacon lardons in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes until they’re lightly browned. Remove them to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

5.     In the same pan, add the beef, a few pieces at a time. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan or the beef will steam, not sear. Sauté the beef until it’s golden brown on all sides. Remove beef and set aside.

6.    In the same pan, lightly brown the carrot and the onion.

7.    Return the beef to the casserole. Toss with the salt and pepper, then add the flour and toss again to lightly coat the beef with the flour.

8.    Set Dutch oven uncovered in the middle position of the oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to the oven for 4 more minutes. This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.

9.    Remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven down to 325 º F.

10. Stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and blanched bacon.

11.  Bring it to a simmer on the stove.

12.  Cover the pan and set it in the lower third of the oven. Adjust the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

13.  While the stew is cooking, prepare onions and mushrooms. (See below).

14.  When the meat is tender, pour the stew into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Put the onions and mushrooms over the meat.

15.  Skim the fat off the sauce in the saucepan. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thick, stir in some stock to thin it out.

16.  Carefully taste the sauce for seasoning. When it's right, pour the sauce over the stew. Put the pan on the stove or in the oven and reheat for 2-3 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley.

17.  Serve with good French bread for dipping. Potatoes, noodles or rice are also good accompaniments.

Brown-braised Onions:
18-24 small onions, peeled (I used cipolline)
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup beef broth

1.    Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

2.    When the butter and oil are bubbling, add the onions and sauté them for 10 minutes, rolling the onions around so they brown as evenly as possible.

3.    Pour in the beef broth, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape.

4.    Discard remaining liquid.

Sautéed Mushrooms:
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (I used crimini)

1.    Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over high heat.

2.    As soon as the butter foam begins to subside, add the mushrooms.

3.    Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as the mushrooms have browned lightly, remove from heat then season with salt.

Serves 6


  1. I love that your four year old knows Boefu Bourguignon :) Your dish came out beautifully (not to mention that I love your Dutch oven...) and I enjoy seeing the photos of the process! Great job all around!!

  2. Great post & beautiful boeuf bourguignon! If I didn't already know how great the recipe is, I'd definitely want to make it after reading this. I wanted to serve mine with bread too, but I was outnumbered by the mashed potato contingent. Next time. :)

  3. I love that your four year old knows Boefu Bourguignon!I totally agree that the dish is worth the trouble and the time
    hreat job on this challenge

  4. I love the 4 year old story too! Beautiful job. It looks so delicious. Before this challenge I was a beef bourguignon virgin, but no more. I am with you in the camp of repeating this dish. Great post!

  5. Hey! I think we have the exact same pot! Great post, and good to hear from someone who swears by the recipe :)

  6. I agree - no matter how many times I make this, it never gets old (although I woudl rather not have to wash all the dishes that come along with it!)
    Lovely job!

  7. I am most impressed that a four year old can pronounce beef bourguignon, I am not entirely sure about it myself.

  8. Your boeuf bourguignon looks delicious! Great job!

  9. Great job, and what a precocious four-year-old. I loved your step-by-step pictures.


I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.