A few months ago I listened to the audio version of the book Julie and Julia [affiliate link] and I fell in love with Julie Powell’s writing style and could completely identify with her “how the hell did I get to be 30 and this is all I have to show for it” attitude.
Every night – for many nights – I would set my laptop up on our bar between the living room and the kitchen and I would listen to the book as I made dinner.
If you’ve seen the movie and read the book then you know already about the differences and I love both the book and the movie because each brought something unique to the story. The book deals mostly with Julie’s life and her blog and the movie shows much more of Julia Child’s life.
THE recipe that both the book and the movie showcase is Boeuf Bourguignon – a French beef stew with wine, bacon and mushrooms and a dish that I have to Google every time I want to write about it since my poor little brain just can’t wrap itself around the spelling.
In the movie, you see various characters creating the stew.
They pour their wine into their beautiful enameled dutch ovens over the piping hot concoction and steam rises up into their faces and from the way the movie is cut, it seems like the pouring of the wine is the last step. I’m here to tell you that the pouring of the wine is not the last step. In fact, the pouring of the wine is like step 10 or something in this 20 something step recipe.
But trust me, the whole thing isn’t hard to do…it just takes a while.
Since I made Boeuf Bourguignon yesterday for tonight’s dinner, I figured I might as well share the recipe with you since this stew will put all other beef stews you’ve ever tried to shame.
Boeuf Bourguingnon à la Taste Like Crazy
- 3 lbs roast of some sort cut into 2″ cubes – I cut up a chuck roast
- 2 carrots
- a big onion
- Kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste
- olive oil
- 2 Tb all purpose flour
- 3 cups red wine – I used Middle Sister Red Table Wine but Chianti is what the original recipe calls for
- 3 cups beef stock
- 1 Tb tomato paste
- 1 tsp fresh Thyme
- 3 cloves of smushed garlic
- 2 small fresh Bay leaves
- 6-8 oz really thick bacon
- 18-24 prepared pearl onions – recipe to follow
- 2 lbs prepared mushrooms – recipe to follow
- red “new” potatoes
Cut your thick cut bacon into pieces – a bit bigger than Trident gum. Add four cups of water to a pot and bring it to a boil. Once your water is boiling, add your cut up bacon and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the bacon for about 10 minutes. This removes a lot of the salt.
While the bacon is cooking, cut up your carrots and onion and turn on your oven to 450 degrees.
Once the bacon is done, drain off the water and pat the bacon dry.
Add about a Tb of olive oil to your pot [I used a really heavy oven safe stock pot] and then the bacon and fry until the bacon is crispy. Once that’s done, grab all of the bacon [use tongs or a slotted spoon] and set it aside.
Take the beef that you’ve already cut up and dry each cube with paper towel to make sure that they’re good and dry so they’ll brown right.
Once the fat in the pot is just about to smoke, add your beef. Don’t crowd the pan because you’ll end up with steamed beef instead of browned beef. Don’t be afraid to work in batches – that’s what I had to do. If you have to brown the beef in batches, just toss the browned beef onto whatever you put the bacon on.
Once all of your beef is browned – you’re not cooking it all the way through…you just want it browned on the outside – lower your heat a tad and add your carrots and onion. Cook that until your onions are just starting to brown and the carrots are almost cooked. If there’s any remaining oil once you’re done, get rid of it but I didn’t have any left over.
Add your beef and bacon back to the pot with the carrots and onion and add Kosher salt and pepper to taste. Then, add the flour and mix it all together so that everything is coated and you don’t see any white in the pot.
Once that’s done, toss the pot into the oven for about five minutes. Pull out the pot [Be careful! It’s hot!] and stir everything around. Toss it back in the oven for another five minutes.
After that last five minutes, pull your pot out of the oven and turn your oven down to 325.
This isn’t the way the original recipe says to do things but this is how I did it and things turned out famously.
In a mixing bowl, add your wine, the Thyme, Bay leaves, garlic and the tomato paste and mix it around until the tomato paste isn’t a big red clump anymore. Now pour all of that into your pot along with enough beef stock so that your beef is just barely covered with liquid. I had to use a full three cups of both wine and beef stock but you might need less or a bit more.
Cover the pot with a heavy lid or some really tightly sealed aluminum foil and pop the whole affair in the oven for 2 hours. The original recipe calls for 3-4 hours but after 2 hours my meat was fork tender so I knew it was done.
While your pot o meat is cooking in the oven, it’s time to make your onions and mushrooms which will be added to the Boeuf Bourguignon once it comes out of the oven.
Browned Pearl Onions
- 18-24 white, yellow or red pearl onions [use all three colors if you’re feeling feisty]
- 1/2 -3/4 cup beef stock
- 1 1/2 Tbs butter
- 1 Tb olive oil
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
- some fresh parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Put a pot of salted water on your stove burner and bring it to a rolling boil. While the water is heating, get the dried onion skins off. Once the water is really boiling, toss your pearl onions in the water for about 15 seconds. You’re not cooking them at this point. You’re blanching them so the skins will come off.
After the 15 seconds, use a slotted spoon to move the onions out of the boiling water and into some cold water.
Once the onions have cooled, use a paring knife to cut off the root end and then carefully peel the onions. The goal is to have whole tiny onions once your done.
After all of the onions are peeled, heat your oil and butter until the pan is good and hot [not smoking] and toss in the onions. Your goal here is to brown them on all sides to the best of your ability without burning the onions. After they’re all nice and golden brown, pour in the beef stock and add your herbs. You can wrap the herbs up in cheese clothe if you have some but I didn’t and I just tossed everything into the pan. The world did not end.
Put a lid on the onions, turn the heat down to low and slowly cook the onions for about 45 minutes. The onions should be completely cooked but still whole.
Set all that aside until your beef comes out of the oven.
- 2 lbs of mushrooms – I used baby bellas cut into quarters
- 2 Tb butter
- 1 Tb olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
The key to having these mushrooms turn out heavenly is to not crowd the pan. If you put too many mushrooms in your pan or your fat isn’t hot enough, you’ll end up with steamed, mushy mushrooms. Not pretty.
Add your butter and olive oil to your pan and get it good and hot. You don’t want it to be smoking but you want it close.
Toss in just enough mushrooms so that none of them are touching each other and then let ’em cook. Every so often, turn them with a wooden spoon so that all sides get browned. Once they start to get some color, pull them out, set them aside and move on to your next batch of mushrooms.
After all of the mushrooms have been browned, then salt and pepper them so that you don’t have the salt leeching water out of the mushrooms and you don’t burn the pepper.
Set your finished mushrooms to the side to wait on the beef to finish cooking.
So now your beef is fork tender and you’re almost ready for dinner.
Set some water on to boil and once that gets going, add in some small red potatoes since you’re going to eat them with your Boeuf Bourguignon.
As your potatoes are cooking, strain your Boeuf Bourguignon threw a fine colander into a heavy sauce pan. Dump the solids back into the original pot.
Turn the heat under your sauce pan to medium heat and as the sauce heats up, skim off any fat that you see. Reduce the sauce until it just coats the back of a spoon and then test it for seasoning. Add Kosher salt and pepper until you’re happy.
Once the sauce has reduced, toss your onions and mushrooms on top of the beef and bacon and then pour on the sauce. Mix it all together.
When your potatoes are done, spoon some into bowls and then ladle your Boeuf Bourguignon over the potatoes. Serve with some crusty French bread and a then finally enjoy this iconic stew.
My suggestion is to make this a day ahead and when you’re ready to eat, then cook your potatoes while the stew is heating up. This eaten the day after it’s made is where it’s at.
Image|Amazon Recipe|Mastering the Art of French Cooking with a couple of tweaks by me