Last week I was tasked with making a Christmas party meal for 15 people. The catch? I’d be busy the whole day leading up to the party with practically no time to cook.
I just made a big pot of turkey chili earlier that week, so I had to think of something else I could make ahead of time and simply reheat to serve. I didn’t want it to be too expensive and I definitely wanted it to fit as a holiday party meal. I hit the (cook)books and thought about it until I came up with this: beef bourguignon. The dish I will (always) misspell.
I’m pretty sure the majority of beef bourguignon made in the US in the last few years was made by someone that recently watched Julie and Julia.
It’s also apparently 50% wine. I can respect that.
The luxurious quality to this stew can be boiled (hah, get it?) down to two things: your stock and making it at least a day beforehand.
If you hear someone rave about a beef bourguignon, I guarantee you it was because they used real stock. A beef or veal stock has a smooth, thick, velvety consistency so if you end up having to use thin beef broth from the soup section at the grocery store, your stew won’t live up to it’s full potential. If you have to substitute (trust me, we all have), I hope you come back and try it one day with the real stuff.
Just like any other good stew or chili, this really does taste better a day or even two after it was first made. The meat will still be buttery tender (even if you reheat it in the microwave!) but the flavors will have developed a lot more.
Word to the wise: this stew does take a decent amount of prep work. Feel free to trim the chuck, chop your veggies, and set aside the accompaniments the day before to break up this recipe a bit.
You don’t want to end up like me: running around in my bathrobe and sneakers at 2 AM trying to McGuiver an ice bath big enough to chill the stew…all because I started prepping after work and didn’t get it on the stove until 10 PM on a Friday night. #BallSoHard
It turns out, a pool in the winter works just fine.
- 6 oz chunk of bacon, rind removed and sliced into ¼” x 1.5” sticks (lardons) or thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1” wide pieces
- 3 # boneless beef chuck, cut into 2” chunks (Large pieces make it easier to sear all sides of all pieces and cutting them into the same size chunks will mean they’re done at the same time. This size seems too big, but once it’s cooked, it’s perfectly sized.)
- ⅓ c all purpose flour
- 2 T vegetable oil
- 4.5 T unsalted butter
- ½ c brandy or cognac
- Tie the following with butcher’s twine and stick the cloves into the celery:
- 4 fresh parsley stems (without leaves)
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaves
- 2 whole cloves
- 1- 4” piece celery
- 2 onions, finely chopped (a fine chop means they practically dissolve into the stew)
- 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼” thick slices
- 1 T tomato paste
- 1 bottle dry red wine, preferably Burgundy, Pinot Noir, or Côtes du Rhône, or Chianti
- 3 cups beef or veal stock (or beef broth if you don’t have stock)
- 1# small boiling or pearl onions (Boiling onions are cheaper, white skinned, and slightly larger but still a good size for this stew. Try to pick out ones on the smaller side, though.)
- 1# mushrooms (such as crimini), de-stemmed, sliced into 1/4″ slices
Sear the beef chuck
- Cook bacon in saucepan of boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain.
- Pat the beef dry and season with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl or large sealable plastic bag, toss the beef with the flour to coat
- Heat 1.5 T oil and 1.5 T butter in 6-8 qt wide heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking.
- Brown the beef in small batches, without crowding, adding remaining ½ tsp oil as needed. A nice golden crust will add a lot of flavor to the resulting stew. If you rush the process and crowd the pot, you’ll draw out moisture faster than the crust evaporates moisture (which needs to happen before the caramelization process can take place).
- Set the browned beef aside with the bacon
Cook the aromatics, start stew
- If there’s any oil remaining in the pot, drain, then add brandy (flambe!) and deglaze over high heat for 1 minute. Scrape up as much as you can, then pour it over beef.
- Wash the pot or grab a new one and heat 1 T butter over medium high heat until the water in the butter evaporates and the butter stops simmering
- Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and cook until light golden brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, stir, and cook for ~1-2 minutes until it’s darkened but not yet burnt
- Add wine to deglaze, meat and juices, bouquet garni, and the bacon rind (if you used chunk bacon).
- Bring the mixture to a light simmer and simmer covered for 3.5-4 hours or until tender. Alternatively, if you have an oven-safe pot, place on a low rack in the oven and braise covered at 325 for the same length of time.
Cook the onions
- Separately, cook boiling or pearl onions in boiling water for 15 seconds, rinse in cold water, then peel. Blanching the onions makes it easier to peel them. You’ll save tons of time and frustration.
- Heat 1 T butter in 3qt sauce pan over medium high heat until the water in the butter evaporates and the butter stops simmering
- Add boiling onions and cook until mostly browned.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add 1.5 cups water, bring to a simmer and simmer, partially covered, until tender (15-20 minutes).
- Increase to medium high heat and boil, uncovered with occasional stirring until the water is mostly evaporated (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat.
Cook the mushrooms
- Heat the remaining 1 T butter in large nonstick skillet over high heat until the water in the butter evaporates and the butter stops simmering
- Add mushrooms and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. At this point, the moisture in the mushrooms will have evaporates.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
If you’re serving it now
- When the meat is finished cooking, add onions and mushrooms and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove and discard bouquet garni
If you’re serving it later
- When the meat is finished cooking, remove from heat and cool uncovered.
- Store onions and mushrooms separately (this will make it easier to remove the fat that accumulates at the top of the stew after it’s cooled)
- Once it’s cool, transfer to an ice bath to cool it down further (and faster), then store covered in the refrigerator.
- Once you’re ready to serve, remove from the fridge and skim any fat at the top that may have accumulated.
- Return the pot to the stove on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and simmer very lightly for ~10 minutes until the meat is heated through.
- Add onions and mushrooms and simmer until the vegetables are heated through.
This silky, smooth stew deserves a nice starchy component like a crisp crostini and some buttered boiled potatoes.
Beef bourguignon pairs well with full bodied, young red wines like Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux Saint-Émilion, or Pinot Noir.