Beef Bourguignon

It doesn’t get more classic Burgundy than Beef Bourguignon. Driving around this region you can see why, with the lower valleys covered with vineyards and the upper hills dotted with large white Charolais beef. Certainly any reasonable person would eventually put the two together, creating one of the most luscious of comfort foods. All you need is some good crusty bread, as always, to sop up the sauce. Variations abound. 

Here is our version, a combination of Cooks Illustrated, Julia Child and Françoise Bernard. Although this recipe is a bit of a project, it is prepared over several days with minimal cooking on the last day making it a great dish for a dinner party.

2 lb beef chuck, cut into 3 oz. chunks

1 bottle of Burgundy red wine or Pinot Noir
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole
Bouquet garni – tie into cheese cloth 1 bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, 2-3 sprigs of parsley, 1 clove and 2 whole black peppercorns

Preparing the Stew
1 thick slice, 3 oz., of salt pork or bacon, cut into ¼ inch cubes
Oil for browning the meat
½ cup of water or stock for deglazing the pan
2 T oil for the roux
2 T flour for the roux
1 cup chicken stock
1 t tomato paste

Preparing the Onions and Mushrooms
1 lb fresh or frozen peeled pearl onions
1½ t oil
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 t sugar
½ lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Oil or butter for sautéing mushrooms

Recipe Overview
The beef marinates for two days, and is cooked on the third day. On the fourth day, serving day, the mushrooms and onion are prepared and added to the meat.

Preparing the Marinade – Three days before serving
Combine the ingredients for the marinade with the beef chunks in a bowl small enough that the meat is completely submerged. You may want to weight them down with a small plate. Refrigerate until you are ready to cook, at least 48 hours.

Cooking the Beef – The day before serving
Remove the beef chunks from the marinade and set aside. Strain the vegetables and bouquet garni from the liquid saving both the solids and the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 325° if you want to finish it in the oven rather than on the stove top.

Place the salt pork in a small sauce pan with a generous amount of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes to remove some of the saltiness from the pork. Drain and set the pork pieces on a paper towel to remove as much excess moisture as possible.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the salt pork. Reduce heat to medium and sauté the pieces until golden brown and the fat has been rendered, about 5-7 minutes. Stir frequently as salt pork can easily burn. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving as much fat as possible in the pan. Add a little more oil to the pan if needed to brown the beef.

Increase heat to medium-high and add the beef chunks in batches. Brown on all sides, about 7 minutes.  Transfer to a Dutch oven and set aside. Add the vegetables (not the bouquet garni) from the marinade to the hot pan and sauté until the onion softens, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to the Dutch oven with the beef chunk. Pour ½ cup of water or stock into the skillet and deglaze, loosening the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the liquid and brown bits into the Dutch oven.

Making the roux. In the skillet, heat 2 T of oil over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture has a toasted aroma and resembles light colored peanut butter, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in a cup of chicken stock. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a simmer stirring frequently until thickened. Pour mixture into the Dutch oven along with the reserved marinade and bouquet garni, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste.  Be careful with the salt as there is still some residual salt from the salt pork.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered over a low flame (or place in the oven) until the meat is very tender, about 3-4 hours. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Cool the beef Bourguignon and refrigerate overnight.

Serving Day

Preparing the onions. Place 1 ½ t oil, 1/3 cup chicken stock, and pearl onions in a skillet. Sprinkle with 1 t sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce heat to medium low and simmer, shaking pan occasionally until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium high and simmer until all the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook, shaking pan frequently until onions are browned and glazed, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Preparing the mushrooms. Heat the butter or oil in a skillet over medium-heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they have released their moisture, the liquid has evaporated and they begin to absorb the fat, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

Finishing the beef Bourguignon. Remove from the refrigerator and skim off some of the excess fat or leave it if you prefer a richer stock. Reheat over medium-low heat, about 15-20 minutes, and add the mushroom and onions. Stir to combine, correct the seasoning and serve with boiled potatoes and crusty bread.