Whenever I mention classic boeuf bourguignon to someone, I get a loopy look, meaning one of two things. Either the person I’m talking with is having a flash-back to the scene in the movie about the young woman cooking her way through Julia Child’s masterwork, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or they simply think I’m crazy because they believe preparing a beef (or boeuf) bourguignon takes forever, and who in their right mind wants to spend that much time in their kitchen?
This recipe, a distilled version of Julia Child’s, leaves its French essence intact, and does not take forever to cook. It doesn’t even take six hours, as claimed by a few other similar recipes I’ve read. You can have a lusciously sauced beef bourguignon on the table in under three hours. Keep in mind, there will be plenty of simmer time, time for you to fold laundry, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, or get some real life work done. The key is to relax and enjoy the creativity while you create your own masterpiece.
Classic Boeuf Bourguignon Recipe
2 lbs beef top sirloin (a thick cut is best), diced into 1 inch pieces
3 oz thick cut bacon strips
3 cups good quality dry red wine
3 cups beef stock (I prefer Kitchen Basics)
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 T tomato paste
1 bouquet garni
Note: use the following amounts of dried herbs: 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp savory. Tie these up in a square of cheesecloth, using cooking string. The other option is to use a prepared bouquet garni, but either way, do tie up in cheesecloth; your sauce will be smoother if you do.
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 onion, diced
1 lb mushrooms (crimini or white button work equally well), sliced
2 T flour
1 stick unsalted butter, divided, at room temperature
salt and pepper to taste
Place bacon strips in pan of cold water, covering bacon. Simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes, or until bacon looks pale throughout. Remove bacon from pan and let dry on plate covered with paper towel. Discard cooking water. When bacon is cool enough to touch, slice into 1/2 inch strips.
In large, heavy skillet, melt 2 T butter. When most of foam from butter subsides, sauté beef until lightly browned on all sides. Remove to clean bowl.
Add bacon strips to same skillet and brown lightly over medium heat. Melt 2 T butter in skillet. When foam subsides, add onions, and sauté until lightly browned. Add wine and scrape up browned bits to deglaze pan. Add beef stock, garlic, tomato paste, bouquet garni, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Continue cooking slowly until liquid has reduced by half and onions have dissolved. Be patient. This is when the recipe does take some time, but it will be worth it!
In separate skillet, melt 2 T butter. Add mushrooms and brown, stirring occasionally until mushroom juices have been reabsorbed. Remove from heat.
Place remaining 2 T butter in small bowl. Add flour and using fork, mash into a smooth paste to create a beurre manié.
When sauce has reduced by half and onions have almost disappeared into it, use a wire whisk to beat the beurre manié into the sauce. Let simmer on low until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, leaving a clean “test strip” after you drag a finger over the back of the spoon.
Return beef and any juices accumulated in the bowl to skillet and warm over low heat, stirring. Add mushrooms, stirring gently to incorporate into the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove bouquet garni and thyme sprigs.
If sauce remains thin, add 2 T butter and melt slowly on very low heat, stirring to allow butter to absorb. Adjust seasonings, and serve in warmed, shallow bowls over pasta or mashed potatoes. A simple, steamed vegetable such as asparagus is a nice accompaniment.
Stephanie Davis, wine educator with Winacea and star of the Wine Two Five podcast, recommends pairing this work of love with a powerful Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Southern France, produced by Lucien Barrot & Fils. At $27/bottle, it’s not an inexpensive choice, but since you did go to the trouble of preparing this classic French dish, celebrate your achievement!
Like this blog post? Subscribe to my newsletter so you won’t miss out on future blog posts!
Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, because living brings its own humor, angst and heroism. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @where she hopes you’ll find illumination of the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Vodka and recipes optional.