Boeuf bourguignon is one of my favorite dishes in the world. This French stew was the first recipe (pilot) on the cooking show, “The French Chef,” starring the great Julia Child. Julia was incredibly informative as she explained the procedures of each recipe. The show, which was partly done in black and white, didn’t bring justice to the beautiful color of a perfectly browned piece of meat.
I was never much of a stew guy. I hear people talk about stews all the time and how easy they are. Just throw a few vegetables, some seasonings, meats, water or stock, turn it on, leave the house and come home that night to supper all ready to eat.
I have had a good amount of over cooked beef stew in my life, and nothing is worse than trying to chomp through a piece of dry meat. On the contrary, I have had some wonderful beef stews in my life as well. When done right, it’s comfort to the core, and relatively inexpensive.
What makes Beef Bourguignon so special to me is the amount of work you actually have to put into it. This one makes you think a bit. There are quite a few steps. I enjoy making this dish for my family on a day off.
Also, when we talk about stews being inexpensive, I often have a tough time spending less than $50 making this dish. For this recipe, I tend to buy nothing but quality items from start to finish. However, if I were to bargain shop for this, I could most likely make it for half the price with the same outcome in taste.
The first step is boiling the bacon pieces. I like to buy the odds and ends package in the store. These chunks of bacon are all sorts of crazy in shapes, amounts of fat and thicknesses. I find the price to be appropriate and often portion and freeze what I won’t use that day for a later time.
I add cold water over about 8 ounces of bacon pieces, bring to a boil and let cook for about 10 minutes on medium high. This process removes the smokiness and a lot of the salt from the cured meat. After the time is up, I drain off the water, and place the bacon pieces into a cast iron skillet. I cook the bacon until it is nice and crisp. Once crisp, I reserve the fat in a small bowl off to the side, and chop the bacon into small pieces.
Then comes time for the meat. I find that a 3-pound, well-marbled piece of chuck shoulder is very suitable for this. Cut the meat into 3-inch cubes. Using paper towels, blot the meat quite well. The reason for this step is to make sure the meat is dry when it hits the pan. If it isn’t dry, it will steam in the pan, and you will not get the desirable seared brown color.
Once the meat is dry, I turn the cast iron pan back on to high heat. I return some of the fat — just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Once the fat begins to smoke, add your chuck meat. Do not overcrowd the pan, for again, this could result in steaming taking place. You may need to do this three or four times. Brown the meat on all sides until you get a caramelized appearance. Set the meat off to the side.
Grab a bowl and place the flour into it. I like to season the flour with some salt and pepper. Toss the meat pieces into the flour, remove and shake off excess flour and place back onto plate.
Grab your chopped onions and carrots. Add some of the bacon fat back to the pan and bring heat to medium high. Sauté the onions for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper to this mix as well. Remove, and place in your roasting pan.
Now for the mushrooms. Again, add your bacon fat and butter to the pan and bring to medium high heat. Let the butter and fat melt, foam slightly and brown. Add mushrooms, thyme, a pinch of salt and sauté until mushrooms have absorbed the fat. Remove and add to roasting pan.
What you have in your pan at this point should be nice brown bits at the bottom. With the pan still hot, we are going to deglaze the pan with the red wine first, and then add beef stock, tomato paste and bay leaf.
Add the floured chuck steak to the roasting pan and place into a 425-degree oven. At this point, you are browning the flour in the oven. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the flour on the meat has a nice brown color to it.
Once the floured meat has browned, add your stock/wine/tomato paste mixture and bacon bits to the roasting pan. The stock should just cover the meat. Cover with foil, turn heat down to 325 degrees and let cook for 2½ to 3 hours.
Every hour, check the amount of liquid in the pan. Make sure it has not completely evaporated. As the roast cooks, the liquid will reduce into a sauce like consistency. Too much reduction, and you run the chance of burning the vegetables.
To see if it’s done, sneak a piece of chuck out of the pan to check for tenderness. If I melts in your mouth, it is done.
I like to serve this over white rice, mashed potatoes or if you have the chance, boil peeled potatoes and place them whole around the roast on your serving platter. Garnish with parsley.
This recipe will make you look at stews in a whole new light. The instructions and ingredients for this also work for Coq au Vin, using chicken thighs and legs to replace the beef chuck meat.
8 ounces chunk bacon
3 pounds chuck stewing meat, well-marbled with fat, cut into 2- or 3-inch cubes
½ cup flour (not all will be used)
2 carrots, peeled and diced medium
1 onion, diced medium<
2 to 3 cups mushrooms, quartered
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon thyme, fresh or dried
3 cups of young red wine (Burgundy is classical, Chianti is good, but any full bodied red wine will work.
3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 whole bay leaves
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butterReserved bacon fat
Reserved bacon crisps