In honor of the fact that it is maybe 40 degrees out in Chicago today with a biting west wind, combined with the fact that I’ve been ridiculously busy lately and haven’t had enough time to cook and blog as much as I’d like to, I thought, “hey, it’s not too late to share Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe!” Yes, this is a dish best savored in winter months – but April seems to be acting like one, so here we go!
Delicious looking, non? It is. Especially with a nice glass of Cabernet. But, know this: while it is not difficult to make, but it does take several hours to make, and on top of that, it actually tastes better after it chills out in your fridge for a couple of days. But do it anyway! Crank up your iPod and spend a rainy day in the kitchen and you will be rewarded with more than a bowl of beef stew – Julia’s method builds a depth of flavor that is extremely warming and satisfying. Ready to go crazy with me? Come ‘on. First let’s check out our ingredients:
Boeuf Bourguignon Ingredients: (Note: this recipe is adapted from Julia Childs’ “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” I took a few liberties for ease. For instance, instead of using bacon with rind on, I used regular store-bought bacon, etc.) This recipe serves at least 6 people.
1 Tbl. olive oil
6 oz. bacon, cut into little strips (I use kitchen scissors for this; so easy)
3 lbs. lean stew meat (beef, duh)
1 sliced carrot (you can use more if you want; I think I did)
1 sliced onion (red, white, it doesn’t matter)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbl. flour
3 C. full-bodied red wine, like a Cabernet or a Merlot
2-3 C. brown beef stock (which you can make from bouillon cubes if you want)
1 Tbl tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 bay leaf
Pearl onions – Julia says to use 18-24, but I really like pearl onions, so I used a lot. And you have to brown-braise these separately from the rest of the dish. I know. But it’s worth it, trust me.
1 lb. white mushrooms, quartered, sautéed in butter – again, prepared separately. Just do it.
Wide egg noodles, for serving, and fresh parsley for garnishing
OK, let’s start cooking!
What You Do: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
1) Get your big enameled cast iron pot out (like a Le Creuset), or a big stainless Dutch oven pot. Saute the bacon in the oil about 5 minutes, to brown it – it doesn’t have to be crispy. Remove the bacon to a side dish.
2) Reheat the bacon fat that’s in the pot til it is really hot – almost smoking – and start sautéing your beef, a batch at a time. BEFORE YOU ADD THE BEEF: make sure you use some paper towels to dry it off so it browns well. When each batch is done, remove to plate.
3) OK, now add your onion and carrot to the empty pot and brown them for about 8 minutes or so. Keep them in the pot.
4) Add the beef and bacon back to the pot and toss w/ salt and pepp. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss things about.
5) Now, pop the pot, uncovered, into the middle of the preheated oven for 4-5 minutes. Take it out, toss things about again and shove it back into the oven, again uncovered, for another 4-5 minutes. This browns or cooks the flour and covers the meat with a bit of a crust. Nice.
6) Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F, and take the pot out, back onto the stove top, over medium-high heat. Stir in the red wine and enough beef stock (or bouillon) so that everything is swimming nicely, just covered in liquid. Add the tomato paste, garlic and bay leaf. Bring it to a simmer. Then put its hat on and nestle it into your 325-degree oven – for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
But wait – you’re not done yet! Time to make the pearl onions and the mushrooms!
BROWN-BRAISED PEARL ONIONS
1) In a big skillet,heat 1 1/2 Tbl butter and 1 1/2 Tbl olive oil depending on how many onions you’re using. Confession: I normally like to use fresh pearl onions, which are a pain in the ass to peel, but man, they are so good. But this time I “cheated” and used frozen pearl onions from Trader Joe’s – I can’t lie – they were very good, but not great. If you want to use fresh pearl onions, trim the tops and then cut a tiny “X” into the bottom of each one and blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute (no more!) and the skins will slip right off. If you use frozen – THAW THEM well ahead of time and DRY THEM so they braise properly (mine were a little wet and it took a long time for them to brown).
2) Alrighty, when your butter/oil mixture is hot, dump in the onions and saute over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until they’re – well, browned. You just have to roll them about for a while so as many sides get brown as you can – don’t worry if they’re not all uniform.
3) Now, add about 1/2 C of beef stock (again, you can make it from bouillon cubes, so handy), salt and pepper to taste and maybe some dried or fresh thyme and a bay leaf. Put a hat on your skillet and simmer on low heat for 40-50 minutes. Uh huh – it takes a long time. Here’s what mine looked like after 50 minutes. When they’re done, just let ’em sit in the pan until your beef is ready.
Whoosh, okay, on to those mushrooms! They’re pretty easy.
Get another skillet out (I know, you’ve got a lot of pans going on, but it is what it is.) Clean your mushrooms with a damp paper towel and trim the stems. Quarter them. Heat 4 Tbl. butter and 2 Tbl olive oil in your skillet. When it’s hot, add your mushrooms. At first, the mushrooms will absorb all the fat and look a bit dry, but then after about 3-4 minutes, the mushrooms release their moisture and begin to brown. The whole shebang takes about 10-15 minutes. When they’re nice and browned, add salt to taste and again, let them hang out in the pan until the beef is ready.
Now, maybe you sit down for a minute and have a nice glass of wine and chill out while your beef finishes cooking. The home stretch is in sight!
BACK TO THE BEEF
Check it at 2 1/2 hours – if the meat is fork-tender, you’re good to go. (I usually just let mine go the whole 3 hours – nothing bad happens to it!) Now comes the messy part.
– Take the pot out of oven and take its hat off. You are going to use two big oven mitts and carefully pour the whole lot into a big sieve or colandar SET OVER A BIG BOWL OR SAUCE PAN (you do not want anything going down the sink – this is your sauce!). So now you have the sauce / liquid in a bowl or pan and the meat and veg in the colandar. Put the meat and veg back into your big post and add the onions and mushrooms.
– After the sauce has sat for about 10 minutes, some fat will rise to the surface – skim it off and chuck it. I use a big metal spoon for this – you won’t get it all and that’s fine – you just don’t want your final dish to be greasy.
– Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer it for maybe 10 minutes, to thicken it a bit. Too watery? Add a touch of corn starch. Too thick? Add a bit of water or beef stock. When the sauce is ready, pour it back into your big pot with the meat and veg – and voila! You just made Boeuf Bourguignon! You can enjoy it immediately (I serve over extra-wide egg noodles), garnished with some fresh parsley, or you can shove the whole pot, covered, into the fridge for a day, 2 days, 3 days. To reheat, bring it to room temp on your counter and then just gently heat it up til it’s bubbly. You can also freeze this (keeps for up to 2 months), and I’m telling you, it’s a beautiful thing to come home and think you have nothing for dinner and find Boeuf Bourguignon in the freezer.
As Julia would say, “Bon Appetit!”
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