Beef bourguignon is one of my favorite things on this earth.
I was recently telling Myles that this blog may end up being 95% soup, stew, and bread recipes. That was never the intention… but standing over a bubbling cauldron– or, you know, enameled dutch oven– fills me with all the satisfaction of my childhood kitchen witch fantasies. Bread is similar in that it can feel very old-world. Very slow. Very ritualistic. So gastronomically therapeutic.
And I love that.
Also, this stew is just good. So if witchy aesthetics aren’t the reason you’re here, this stew should be. It’s velvety, it’s rich, and it’ll make you want to take a really long nap (in the best way). If you’re like me, and you’re familiar with Julia Child’s famous version of this French classic, then you’ll be pleasantly relieved with how much simpler my recipe is… but if “stew” means throwing meat and veg in a slow cooker with a seasoning packet to you, then you might laugh at how labor intensive this recipe is. All I can say is that you can usually taste time spent in a well-cooked dish, and this is absolutely no exception.
As far as tips for this recipe goes, I will tell you there is some flexibility– except in the dutch oven. This recipe requires you to cook on the stove top and in the oven, so you need a pan with a lid that can take high heat for long periods. It also needs to be at least 7-quart capacity in order to fit the whole recipe. If you’re dutch oven is the standard 5 quart, you’ll need to cut the recipe in half.
. For beef, I always use petite sirloin steaks because they’re the cleanest of any cheap cut of beef I’ve found. You can certainly use chuck or brisket, but those pieces may fall apart more readily after hours in the oven. If that is your desire–then go for it! But I like a more distinct “chunk” (sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?) in my finished product. Also, in my recipe I specify using a cheap red wine. I mean cheap. Obviously, burgundy is the classic choice, but anything dry and red will work. I have made the mistake of using a 10-15 (yes, TEN is too expensive) dollar wine, and I can promise you there’s no difference. Bottom shelf, baby. And then you won’t have to feel guilty about swallowing your money for no reason.
Also, before anyone asks, you don’t need to use baby potatoes in this recipe, but they do make a difference. I use them 50% for cute factor, and 50% for texture. When you chop a trusty russet into chunks and then simmer it for 3 hours…. it disintegrates. I use baby potatoes because you can leave them whole, and they stay neatly in their natural package through hours and hours of cooking.
But if the price tag throws you off, don’t sweat it. Potatoes aren’t even in the classic recipe– they’re the main reason my recipe is a bastard. Classically, you’re supposed to make this recipe sans-potato, and then serve it over roasted or mashed potatoes. I just threw them in for the sake of cleaning one less pot. So if you want to use cheap potatoes and don’t want to sacrifice texture, just be a purist and cook them separately. Everyone will think you’re fancy for it.
And yes. You can use dried herbs. Just go ’til it tastes good.
1 lb thick smoked bacon, or pancetta
2-3 lbs petite sirloin or beef of choice
3 lbs baby potatoes
6 medium/large carrots
1/2 white or yellow onion
1/4 c. all purpose flour
6 oz tomato paste
1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bunch fresh herbs– rosemary, thyme, and oregano
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle inexpensive red wine
2-3 quarts of beef broth
1 lb white or cremini mushrooms
10-12 oz pearl onions
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Roughly chop beef into very large chunks (the smaller the chunks, the more likely they will be to fall apart and end up like shredded beef), sprinkle with sea salt, toss, then sprinkle with salt again. Set aside.
Chop bacon or pancetta into small pieces; this will be very quick if it is pre-sliced. Bring a large (at least 7 quart) dutch oven to medium heat on the stove top, and add bacon. Fry, stirring constantly until crisped and remove all the bits from the pan. Increase the heat slightly. When the oil/bacon fat is heated to the point where you cannot comfortably hover your hand six inches above the base of the pan, it’s ready for the meat. Using tongs, place a few pieces of meat into the pan and sear on each side. Do not crowd the pieces or it will cool the pan too much and you won’t get a good sear.
Working in batches, sear all beef pieces (on each side), and set aside.
Peel carrots and chop into large pieces. Roughly dice the 1/2 onion. Add both to dutch oven while still hot and stir frequently until slightly browned and sweated. If vegetables are browning too quickly, reduce heat. We want caramel on the outside–not carbon. Add the flour to your vegetables, and stir until it is evenly distributed. Deglaze the pot with a bit of your wine and stir. Add tomato paste and crushed garlic. Stir until there are no longer any large blobs of tomato paste, then add the rest of your wine and 2 quarts of the broth.
While the liquid heats, wash or scrub potatoes if needed, and add to the pot. When the mixture begins to simmer, add bacon and beef back into the pot and stir.
Heat oven to 400 F.
Gather fresh herbs and tie with food-safe string or kitchen twine into a bouquet. Add to pot. Once the mixture is simmering again, stir and taste. Season with salt and pepper (go lightly at first, as the mixture will reduce and the flavor with strengthen).
Place the lid on your dutch oven, and then move it to the oven. Let the stew simmer in the oven for 2.5-3.5 hours, tasting and stirring every 40 minutes. Use the rest of the beef broth to add liquid when needed.
During the last hour of simmering, blanch pearl onions to remove the skins. Wash and quarter mushrooms. Bring a skillet to medium/high heat and add the rest of the olive oil. Add onions and mushrooms, and saute unil mushrooms are shrunken and cooked through. Add the mushrooms and onions to your dutch oven, and then place the dutch oven back into the oven, uncovered, for the last thirty minutes of braising. Stew is ready when the potatoes and carrots are very soft and the meat is beginning to fall apart. Serve hot!