And now, for a stew that is elegant enough to serve at a dinner party…if I ever had such a thing.
*I just “have people over”, as Pam Anderson says.
Beef Burgundy, Julia Child’s way, is a tour de force production. It was the recipe she made in the first episode of “The French Chef”, and she chose it for a good reason. The big chunks of beef, bathed in the velvety wine sauce, with browned pearl onions and mushrooms mixed in at the last minute…amazing. Julia’s recipe takes a maximum effort, and gives a maximum reward. I’ve made Julia’s version. Once. I loved it, but I’m using a simpler version here.
*I’ve heard that this recipe plays a big part in Julie and Julia. As of this writing, I haven’t seen it yet. Yes, I know, I’ll have to turn in my foodie membership card.
I follow what I think of as my basic stew technique. Brown the beef (in some bacon fat…yum…). Saute the aromatics in the leftover fat, add the liquid (burgundy…yum again…), and simmer in the oven for 3 hours, until the beef apart tender. Stir in some sauteed pearl onions and mushrooms, and the result an elegant and refined stew.
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 8 ounces thick-cut bacon, sliced thin
- 4 lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch cubes
- 2 tsp plus 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 cups chicken stock (homemade is best, or use water)
- 2 cups red wine (Burgundy or Pinot Noir is best, a blend like a Cote du Rhone is a good substitute)
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 sprigs of thyme and parsley, tied together into a bouquet garni
- 1 large dried mushroom (optional)
- salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. Saute the bacon: Put the bacon and teaspoon of oil in a large dutch oven, then turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until the bacon is well browned, five to ten minutes. Move the bacon to a large bowl using a slotted spoon, leaving as much bacon fat behind as possible.
2. Sear the Beef: Salt the beef cubes with 2 tsp of salt. Increase the heat under the dutch oven to medium-high, and add half the beef. Sear for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until well browned. I usually treat the cubes as having two “sides” – 3 minutes, flip, 3 minutes on the other side. Move the browned cubes to the bowl with the bacon. Add the second batch of beef to the pan, and just like the first batch, sear until well browned, then move them to the bowl. You should have a nice browned fond on the bottom of the pot. If the fond looks like it is starting to burn, reduce the heat to medium, and put the beef cubes directly over the part of the pan that’s in danger of burning.
*I use two batches because that allows me to brown the beef without overcrowding the pan. It works best if you use two pans for the browning; you don’t have to watch out for burning as carefully.
**Overcrowding leads to steaming, not browning, and without browning you don’t have as much flavor in your stew.
3. Saute the aromatics: Reduce heat to medium. There should be 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan; Add more vegetable oil, or pour out fat to get to 2 tbsp. Put the onions, carrots and remaining 1/2 tsp salt in the pot. Saute until softened and just starting to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot after a minute or two, to loosen up the browned fond from the beef. Once the vegetbales are softened, stir in the tomato paste, then sprinkle in the flour. Cook, stirring and scraping, for one minute. The flour should be well mixed with the vegetables, and no longer look dry.
4. Cook the stew: Make sure your oven rack is in the bottom third of the oven, then heat oven to 325*F. Add the stock, wine, bay leaf, herb bouquet and dried mushroom to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any stuck onions or flour. Add the beef and bacon, and any juices they released. Turn the heat on the stove to high, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, and move it into the oven. Bake for 3 hours.
6. Rest and Reheat: (Optional, but helps the flavor a lot.) Leave the pot on the counter, uncovered, until it cools to room temperature. Cover and move to the refrigerator. Refrigerate overnight, or up to four days. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you want to serve, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Check the seasoning again, add the pearl onions and mushrooms, then serve.
*Strain and degrease the sauce before serving: If you want to serve beef burgundy at its best, strain and defat the sauce. Remove the meat to a platter with a slotted spoon, then strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Let the liquid settle, then spoon the fat off of the surface (I use a gravy strainer for this).
*Serve with: Be sure to make the companion steam-sauteed pearl onions and mushrooms; they add a lot to the final dish. Serving beef burgundy with boiled potatoes is traditional, and you could also serve it with noodles. But…I love, love, LOVE mashed potatoes with the sauce from this dish.
*As usual, I used two pans (my 8 quart dutch oven, and my 12 inch frypan) to do the browning, instead of browning in two batches. Make sure to get all the browned bits from the frypan into the stew by deglazing the pan with the stock, scraping up all those delicious browned bits. Pour the stock from the frypan into the dutch oven when the recipe says to add the stock.
*I know this dish is called Beef Burgundy, but I rarely use real French burgundy in it. If I’m going to buy burgundy…I’m going to drink it. I usually buy a cheap Pinot Noir for the pot, and a good burgundy to serve at the table.
*Since you only use 2 cups of wine, and a standard bottle holds 3 cups, you will have to dispose of the extra wine somehow. I find that it helps the chef to relax and get into the flow of the recipe…
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Steam-Sauteed Pearl Onions and Mushrooms
Julia Child The Way To Cook
*This was my first Julia Child cookbook, and is still my favorite.
Ginette Mathiot: I Know How to Cook (Je Sais Cuisinier)
*The French “Joy of Cooking” – more home cooking French than Julia’s Cordon Bleu inspired recipes. Here is Ginette’s version of this recipe: Beef Bourguignon [nytimes.com]
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