Friday, January 22, 2010

Where's the Beef?!?

I was prepared for battle, armed and dangerous in my kitchen fatigues. I had assembled my mise en place army and was standing ready to take on the seemingly epic culinary undertaking that is (drum-role please) ......  BOEUF BOURGUIGNON!
 I hope you all read that in the deepest, darkest, rumbling from the depths kind of voice possible because that is exactly how I felt walking into this. I mean there are movies about this dish…movies! I’m trying to stack up to Julia and Anthony here people, no small task.

Now, I LOVE this dish. It’s one of those meals that when done well can be something you dream about for weeks after eating. Rich and smooth and earthy with that depth of flavor that can only come from having taken a bath in wine for 4 hours. I mean really, what doesn’t taste completely awesome after all that?

As it turns out, it’s just not that hard! Maybe it’s because I’ve been making a lot of stews recently. Or maybe it’s that I just can’t stop drooling over all the bacon, butter and winey goodness long enough to worry about the actual cooking part. Or maybe it was that damn Aaron Copland Rodeo music from the “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” commercials that has been running through my head all day. Whatever the reason, I made it through and it was A.W.E.S.O.M.E.!

It had a dark, full-bodied and luscious sauce that glistened (thank you copious amounts of butter). The beef just fell apart into these delicious silky morsels. In fact, one look at the fork and those damn beef chunks parted like Moses and the red sea. It was ambrosial. I kept looking up at my husband with the “I totally made this!” look in my eye but my mouth was too busy chewing so the words never made it out. I thought about serving the bourguignon over noodles or something but then decided that it was so rich and simply divine that all it needed was a bowl and a spoon. I will definitely be making this dish again and if you have a spare 5 hours to sit at home ;-) you should too.

Boeuf Bourguignon
(by A Girl and Her Kitchen, adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook)

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 8 ounces pancetta, cubed
• 3 lb lean stew meat
• 3 large carrots, cut into 1inch pieces
• 3 shallots, sliced
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
• 1 bottle (3 cups) red wine (any you like will do)
• 1 shot of cognac (such as Hennessey)
• 1 tbsp tomato paste
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
• 1 bay leaf
• 3 ounces demi glace (if not available, swop out water and demi glace for 3 cups good beef stock)
• Water to cover
• 4 tbsp butter (unsalted), softened
• 3 tbsp flour
• ½ pound frozen whole pearl onions (optional)
• 1 pound fresh mushrooms, stems discarded & caps thickly sliced
• ½ tbsp sherry vinegar (optional)

Preheat oven to 325° with rack in lower third.

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Sauté pancetta in oil until lightly browned. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Dry beef cubes with paper towel and season well with salt and pepper. Reheat fat from pancetta in the pot and brown beef cubes on all sides in batches, 3-5 minutes. As they brown, set aside with pancetta.
Sauté carrots and shallots in the same pot until shallot is golden brown. Add salt and pepper, then beef and pancetta back to the pot. Toss in the cognac to help deglaze the pan. Then stir in tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and toss with meat until well distributed. Add the wine and demi glace. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pot. Add the water just to cover. (Note: if you do not have demi glace, replace demi glace and water with 3 cups beef broth.) Bring to a simmer.
Cover pot tightly with liq and braise in oven for 3-4 hours. Meat is done when it pulls apart easily with a fork. 10 minutes before you take the meat out of the oven, add the frozen pearl onions if using. (Check out what 4 hours in the oven did to my pot top! I had to scrape some off to add to the sauce because it had so much flavor!)
While the meat is cooking in the over, sauté mushrooms in one tablespoon of butter until they are lightly browned and starting to caramelize. Do not over crowd the pan with mushrooms. Work in batches. Once all mushrooms are browned, add the previous batches back to the pan, season all mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste. Add sherry vinegar and cook until liquid is evaporated.
When the beef is ready, remove pot from oven and set on the stove. Combine the flour with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter with a fork. Stir into the stew. This will help thicken it. Then add the mushrooms and mix well to combine but be gentle because that meat is ready to fall apart. If the sauce is too thin, boil rapidly to reduce for a minute or two. Serve with boiled potatoes, rice, noodles, or on its own.


  1. Yum!! Great Pictures too. Perfect on these rainy, chilly days

  2. Looks at least as good as Julie's

  3. Looks incredible. Ever since I saw Julie & julia I've been dying to make it. You may have just lit a fire under my $%#

  4. Wow! Jenn, the food looks fabulous! And Dan, I'm guessing you did the photography -- just terrific!
    Must go -- cause now I'm hungry!
    xx Michele