A peasant dish that has been elevated to fine dining stature, beef bourguignon, sometimes spelled bœuf bourguignon or bœuf à la bourguignonne, literally translates to beef Burgundy.
What, essentially, is beef bourguignon? It’s beef slow cooked in red wine. In the olden days, so I have read, French peasants in the Burgundy region made good use of tougher cuts of meet by stewing them. Ergo, the name for the dish which reflects its origin.
It is reasonable to suppose that during those times, Burgundy wine (wine produced in the Burgundy region) was used. Is it essential to use Burgundy wine to make this dish today? Any good red wine will work for this dish and, although I have penchant for semi-sweet wines, I have to admit that dry red wine is best for making beef bourguignon. The result is a hearty stew that is perfect for the colder weather.
There are so many recipes for beef bourguignon; this is the no-fuss version. Meaning, instead of straining the broth and thickening it with beurre manie (a flour-and-butter paste), I just allowed the stew to simmer until the sauce was considerably reduced and naturally thickened.
What thickened it? Stewed tomatoes. Some recipes use tomato paste (probably not an ingredient in “authentic” beef bourguignon) but I substituted stewed tomatoes for texture. That way, there’s no need for the beurre manie.
And, instead of cooking the stew in the oven, I cooked it on the stove top over very, very low heat. All the traditional ingredients — red wine, butter and bacon — have been retained though. But of course! Otherwise, it wouldn’t be beef bourguignon.
- 1 k. of beef brisket, cut into two-inch cubes
- 1 tbsp. of salt
- ½ tsp. of freshly ground pepper
- 2 tbsps. of flour
- 6 tbsps. of olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 100 g. of belly bacon, diced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 c. of good red wine
- 1 can of stewed tomatoes with the liquid
- ½ tsp. of dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 to 3 c. of meat broth preferably homemade
- more salt and pepper, to taste
- 18 to 24 pearl onions
- about 20 button mushrooms
- 4 tbsps. of butter
- fresh parsley, to garnish
- Rub the beef cubes with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the flour and toss to coat all pieces.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan. Brown the beef in batches.
- Turn the beef cubes to brown all sides. Do not move them too often though and do not flip them too early to make sure that a light crust forms to sear and seal the meat.
- As each batch browns, scoop out, transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Proceed with the next batch until all the beef cubes are nicely browned.
- In a thick-bottomed pot, cook the bacon until fat has been rendered.
- Add the sliced onion and garlic.
- Cook until the onion slices start to soften.
- Add the browned beef to the pot.
- Pour in the wine. Boil gently for about ten minutes.
- Add the stewed tomatoes, a cup of broth, the thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for two hours or until the beef is tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan. If the liquid dries out before the beef is done, add more broth, half a cup at a time. Taste the sauce occasionally and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
- When the beef is almost done, prepare the pearl onions by peeling them and cutting off the root ends.
- If the mushrooms are rather large, cut them in half.
- Heat a frying pan. Add the mushrooms and cook, shaking often, until most of the mushroom water that had been released has evaporated. Add the butter and the pearl onions. Cook for about three minutes.
- Pour the mushrooms and onions, with the butter, into the pot of beef. Stir. Continue cooking over medium heat, uncovered, for another 15 minutes or so, or until the sauce has reached the thickness that you prefer.
- Fish out the bay leaves and pour the stew into a large serving bowl.
- Sprinkle the beef bourguignon with parsley and serve. Pair with rice, crusty bread or cooked noodles.
Beef bourguignon is a perfect make-ahead dish for entertaining during the holidays. Like any stew, the meat will benefit from soaking in its own sauce for a day or so before it is served.
To make ahead, cook until the beef is almost done, cool and chill. About an hour before you intend to serve it, reheat slowly. Cook the mushrooms and pearl onions in butter, add the to stew, cook for 15 minutes and it’s done.