You haven’t truly lived until you have enjoyed the indescribable pleasure of a rich, hearty bowl of savory beef bourguignon. My condolences to all my vegetarian readers out there – you don’t know what you’re missing. I’ve been experimenting with various recipes for years, and picked up a very respectable one in culinary school, but what follows is an evolving recipe which, with my latest tweaks, recently resulted in my most successful iteration of this classic French beef stew to date. This dish is an all-afternoon love affair, so plan on at least 4 hours for total prep and cook time.
Here are your ingredients to make six very satisfying servings:
For the main stew:
- 10 oz. thick cut bacon, sliced into 1” pieces
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3-4 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 20 baby carrots, cut in half
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 2½ cups full-bodied dry red wine
- 2½ cups beef stock
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 crumbled bay leaves
For the glazed onions:
- 8 oz. white pearl onions, peeled
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ cup beef broth
For the sautéed mushrooms:
- 1 lb. baby portabella mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
- 4 tbsp. butter
As far as your choice of wine is concerned, you have a lot of latitude. I chose a Merlot because I had just enough in a bottle I had opened the night before, but you’ll also get great results from a cabernet, zinfandel or practically any red Bordeaux.
And here we go. Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees.
The first step, and an extremely important one, is to remove excess moisture from the beef, as this will prevent the desired browning during the initial cooking step. I do this by coating a large sheet pan with a couple layers of paper towels, spreading out the beef chunks in a single layer, then covering with another layer or two of towels. Let it sit for at least 10-15 minutes, and even help it along with a gentle pat or two.
When that is done, heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook until it is browned and the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon to drain on a paper towel, leaving the fat in the pan.
Over medium-high heat, brown the beef in the bacon fat for a few minutes on one side. Resist the urge to turn the pieces, and work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, like so:
Allow the beef chunks to develop a rich brown sear on the bottom, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, repeating as needed until all of the beef has been seared on one side. Trust me, this works.
Next add the carrots and onions to cook in the remaining fat until they become tender and aromatic. Remove them to join the partially cooked beef (no worries, they’re all going back in together momentarily), and pour off the excess fat.
Return the beef, vegetables and bacon to the pan and season with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour, stir through, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, beef stock, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme, and bring the mixture up to a simmer. And with that, it’s time to cover the pot, pop it in the oven, and let nature take its course as you sip some more of whatever wine you used for the recipe. That reminds me of a joke I saw somewhere recently: “I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.” Anyway, allow your dish to braise in the oven, covered, for about 3 hours.
As you’re nearing the end of the cook time for the main stew, you will want to start preparing the onions and mushrooms.
For the onions, heat the butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the onions for about 10 minutes until brown on all sides. Add the beef broth, cover and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes until the onions develop a brown glaze.
For the mushrooms, heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and cook the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, until they develop a deep, rich brown color. When the cook time is finished on the stew, stir in the onions and mushrooms.
And you’re done! Adjust your seasoning with some salt and pepper, and serve it up by itself or over some cooked noodles, with a hunk of crusty French bread on the side. We were ooh-ing and aah-ing our way all the way through this dish, with big happy grins all around – definitely my best result yet for this dish. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!