Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon: that classic French stew made popular in America by Julia Child. It's popularity is well deserved and a perfect "warm you up" dish to make throughout the winter months, filling your home with heavenly aromas. It had our dog Lady's nose working overtime, so I knew I was doing something right!

I've slightly adjusted Juila's recipe and added a few flares from Ina Garten, both of whom share very similar recipes to begin with. I particularly like Ina's addition of Cognac, as it adds another depth of flavor to the dish. However, if you don't have any on hand the stew is perfectly delicious without it.

While boeuf bourguignon is really just a "peasant" stew, I find it's robust flavor to be worthy of kings (and certainly any dinner party or celebratory event)! In terms of entertaining, there's really nothing simpler as it can be made in advance and reheated just before dinner. The flavor only gets better after a day or two in the fridge.

I however, did not serve this for company when I made it because I (selfishly) knew I wanted all the leftovers. Aaron and I enjoyed it together along with a lovely bottle of wine and some crusty French bread to sop it up. So comforting and delicious! Tis the season for braises and stews and it doesn't get much better than this. 

Adapted from Child, Bertholle, Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and an Ina Garten recipe

Olive oil
8 oz. thick cut dry cured smoked bacon, diced
3 lbs. chuck beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
All-purpose flour to coat beef
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Cognac (optional) 
1 (750 ml.) bottle red Burgundy (or any dry red wine will do)
2 to 3 cups beef broth
1 tbsp. tomato paste
A small handful of fresh thyme
2 small (or 1 large) bay leaves
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 lb. fresh or frozen pearl onions (see notes below)
1 lb. mushrooms, stemmed and quartered 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. 

In a small saucepan, bring the beef broth to a simmer, shut off heat and cover pot. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and add the bacon. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon has begun to brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a large plate or casserole dish. Set aside. 

Thoroughly dry the cut beef with paper towels (to ensure good browning) and generously season with salt and freshly ground pepper. In a large bowl, or casserole dish, toss the beef with flour, just enough to lightly coat. Saute the beef in small batches in the hot oil and bacon fat until it is evenly browned on all sides. Transfer the meat to the plate or casserole with the bacon. Continue sauteing in the same manner until all the beef is browned, adding more olive oil as necessary. Set aside.

In a large bowl, season the carrots and sliced onions with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add the vegetables to the Dutch oven and stir to coat in the oil and fat. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Shut off the heat, pour in the Cognac, stand back, and carefully ignite the liquor with a match to burn off the alcohol. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef and bacon back to the pot along with any juices that may have accumulated. Pour in the bottle of wine and enough warmed beef stock to almost cover the meat. Stir in the tomato paste. To make the bouquet garni (herb bundle), tie the thyme and bay leaves together using butcher's twine (for ease in removing later) and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover the Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork. 

While the beef is cooking, prepare the pearl onions and mushrooms. Add 2 tbsp. of butter to a large skillet and saute the pearl onions just until they are nicely browned. Remove onions from pan and set aside. In the same skillet, saute the mushrooms until lightly browned and tender, about 8 to 10 minutes (adding more butter if necessary). Set aside. 

When the stew is done, transfer it to the stovetop. Make a beurre manie (a thickening agent of butter and flour): combine 2 tbsp. butter and 3 tbsp. flour in a small bowl. Blend until smooth using a fork. Stir the beurre manie into the stew and add the pearl onions. Bring the stew to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue simmering for 15 minutes more. Check to see that the stew has thickened nicely and that the pearl onions can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove bouquet garni. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. Alternatively, let the stew cool, cover and refrigerate. To reheat, bring to a simmer on the stovetop, stirring occasionally. Cover pot, reduce heat slightly and simmer gently for about 10 minutes prior to serving. 

Yield: 6 servings 

  • If using fresh pearl onions, you'll need to remove their skins. Start by trimming each end of the onions with a pairing knife. Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove using a spider and transfer to an ice bath to halt their cooking. Their skins should slide off with ease. 

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