Monday, March 22, 2010

Beef Bourguignon

My wife is a talented chef. I may be biased, but her education, awards and client list would lend credence to my opinion. In order to try and be a better cook I asked her, "What makes a bad cook?"

     She thought for a while then said, "Being sloppy. By that I mean not taking your time, working too quickly and trying to take shortcuts."

     Beef bourguignon is one of those dishes that demands time, attention and will not tolerate shortcuts. Braising takes time, especially if you are dealing with chuck or any stew meat.

     This dish took me over 3 hours to prep and cook, but I enjoyed it. I listened to Devo, sang along like a loon, enjoyed the smells of the kitchen and was happy doing my own thing in my own space.

     I borrowed from Ina Garten, Julia Child and a man from France who suggested the brandy reduction. This recipe produced 3 quarts and was served on a bed of mashed potatoes. While good the next day, it did not match the out of control goodness fresh from the pot.

Beef Bourguignon

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 bottle red wine
1/5 cup brandy
3 pounds lean chuck cut into 1" to 1.5" cubes
6 to 8 ounces thick cut bacon, diced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 carrots, cut diagonally into 1" pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
16-25 ounces brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
12-14 small onions, halved (white boiling will do nicely)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 pound mushrooms, stems removed, thickly sliced
Italian parsley for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

2. Heat the olive oil in a 4 1/2 quart Le Creuset or dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate.

3. Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. (see notes) Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

4. Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pot and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned.

5. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

6. Add 1/2 cup brandy and cook until reduced by one half.

7. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add about 1/2 to 2/3 of the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to just cover the meat. Add the tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf and rosemary. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with the lid and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

8. About 15 minutes before the pot comes out of the oven, saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Reserve.

9. Next, melt 2 tablespoons of butter under medium-low heat and slowly whisk in the flour until you have a white roux.

10. Remove the pot from the oven, place on the stove and slowly add the roux to the stew and stir slowly. Add the mushrooms and onions. Bring the stew to a simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

11. Serve on a bed of mashed potatoes and garnish with chopped Italian parsley.

When searing the beef, do not cover the entire bottom of the the pot. You will lose heat and the beef will not sear. Also, be sure to drain off most of the fat after each batch. Drain the fat into a small bowl and reserve. If you do not do this, fluid will gather and you will be braising and the Maillard Reaction will not occur. When done searing the beef, add any fat you drained back into the pot.

     Also, be sure to wipe the side of the pot after you drain it between batches. The last thing you need is for some grease to drip into the the burner and ignite!


  1. Dude, Thanx for this Delightful post..

  2. Thank you for the kind words, laddie. However, you are a most talented cook in your own right. This was incredibly delicious! Clean plates all around. And those mmmmasterful mashed Yukon Gold mashed potatoes...

  3. There is a puddle of droll on my desk in front of me. What's your favorite olive oil for cooking (as opposed to salad, bread, etc)?

  4. Thanks, man. :) This is one of those dishes that really rewards patience.

    I wish I had an exciting answer regarding the olive oil. I tend to use a first cold press extra virgin olive oil from Whole Foods that's a good all around oil. My wife is a chef, so I tend to raid whatever she has brought home from the market. Heh.

  5. Thanks, man. It was pretty good. Time intensive, but worth the effort. sometimes you see recipes for this dish calling for less that 2.5 hours of braising. I have no idea what that's about.