Beef Bourguignon

Source: Julia Child

Servings/Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 5-6 ounces chunk of fat-and-lean fresh side pork, or pork shoulder blade; or salt pork or bacon chunk
  • olive oil or peanut oil
  • 3-4 lbs beef chuck , cut in 2" cubes (See note 1)
  • 3 cups strong young red wine
  • 2 cups homemade beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 imported bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • tsp bottled dried orange peel
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 or more cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper, as needed
  • 18-24 small white onions (1" in diameter), (See note 2)
  • ½ lb mushrooms, (about 1 inch in diameter) (See note 3)
  • Final Sauce:
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 ½ Tbsp soft butter

Method

Browning the beef

  1. Cut the pork into lardons (sticks 1/4 inch across and 1 to 1 1/2 inches long), and if you are using salt pork or bacon blanch it (simmer 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water to remove salt and/or smoky taste); saute slowly in a tablespoon of oil in the frying pan for 5 minutes or until lightly browned, then remove the lardons and set aside. Heat the fat they have rendered, or enough oil to film pan by 1/16 inch, to very hot but not smoking. Meanwhile dry beef with paper towels, and add as many pieces to pan as will fit in 1 layer easily without crowding (they must have room or they will steam rather than brown). Brown nicely on all sides, regulating heat so fat is always very hot but not smoking. Add more oil if needed, and when one piece of meat is browned, transfer it to casserole and add another piece of beef until all are browned. Transfer with a slotted spoon to casserole. Pour browning fat out of frying pan and discard; pour a cup of wine or stock into pan, bring to simmer, scraping up coagulated browning juices and pour this liquid over the beef. 
  2. Recipe may be completed a day or two in advance to this point; or you may add the wine to it now, as well as the stock and seasonings from the next step; then set it aside, or cover and refrigerate. The wine tenderizes the meat, and the other ingredients will also flavor it as it marinates.

Stewing the beef

Set casserole over heat; add the optional wine, and enough stock (or bouillon) barely to cover the meat. Add the bay leaf, thyme and orange peel; wash the tomato, chop it roughly, and add it to the beef along with the tomato paste and the unpeeled garlic cut in half. Bring to the simmer, taste, and salt lightly if necessary. Cover and cook at a slow simmer either on top of the stove or in the oven--for oven cooking, start at 350 degrees, then lower heat in 20 to 30 minutes to 325 or even 300 degrees.

Timing
If you have top-quality meat such as chuck roast, check every 15 minutes or so after 1 1/2 hour of simmering; the beef must not overcook and fall apart when served, but it must be tender enough for a pleasant stew.

Preparing the onions

  1. (See note 2). To peel them easily, drop onions into a saucepan of boiling water, bring rapidly back to the boil and boil 1 minute; drain and run cold water over the onions. Shave off 2 ends of each onion, slip off the skins, and pierce a cross 3/8 inch deep in root ends to prevent them from bursting during cooking. Place in a heavy saucepan, add 1/2 inch of water, a pinch of salt and the browned pork lardons. Cover and simmer slowly, tossing occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until onions are just tender when pierced with a knife. Set aside.
  2. Preparing the mushrooms:
  3. Trim off dry or sandy stem ends, wash the mushrooms thoroughly but rapidly, and dry in a towel. Leave whole if 3/4 inch across or less; halve or quarter lengthwise if larger. Film a frying pan with 1/16 inch oil, heat to very hot but not smoking, and add enough mushrooms to cover bottom of pan; toss (shake pan by handle) over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add them to the cooked onions, and proceed with the rest of the mushrooms (if any) in the same manner.

Finishing the stew
When beef is tender, set a large colander over a saucepan and pour contents of casserole into colander. Wash out casserole and return the meat to it. Press juices out of remains in colander, and discard residue. Skim fat off cooking liquid in saucepan, and taste liquid very carefully for strength and seasoning. You should have about 3 cups (See note 4) of delicious meaty rich stock. Boil down rapidly if weak, to concentrate flavor, adding a bit more stock or bouillon or wine, herbs, garlic or tomato paste if you feel them necessary. Remove from heat, blend the beurre manie (flour and butter mixture) into the liquid with a wire whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring as it thickens into a light sauce; check seasoning. Arrange the onions, mushrooms and lardons over the beef in the casserole along with any onion-cooking juices. Pour the sauce over the meat and simmer 5 to 6 minutes, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce to blend flavors. Stew is now ready to serve, or may be set aside and reheated.

Notes

  1. Two inch square cubes are very large; I cut mine smaller, about 1 1/4 inch across. By making them smaller, you must brown more cubes.
  2. Preparing fresh onions is time-consuming. I may try frozen pearl onions in the future and cook them a shorter time than if they were fresh.
  3. I will use more mushrooms in the future.
  4. You may have more than 3 cups of broth. You can freeze the excess for a delicious gravy base for another beef meal.
© Jay Deitch 2013