I’m not a fan of recipes that are overly complicated, especially when it comes to rustic French cooking. Bœuf Bourguignon or beef burgundy was originally a peasant dish first described by Auguste Escoffier and later popularized by Julia Child. However, over time, rustic cooking was transformed in haute cuisine with fancier methods of cooking and more sophisticated equipment. Unfortunately, so many of the cookbooks that had a recipe for bœuf bourguignon made it into a much bigger production than I thought it should be. The technique and the basic ingredients are still the same, but I just simplified the process to dirty only one pan. The cooking method probably owed to the inexpensive cuts of beef available and braising is particularly good for tough gristly meat. The ingredients were those readily available—beef, salt pork, wine, herbs, onions and mushrooms. When these ingredients are added depends on the recipe you follow. Some make a bouquet garni sachet of the onions, carrots and herbs and some omit the carrot, sauté the onions with the mushrooms and add it when it’s nearly done. I found that mincing the onions and carrots and adding it in the beginning works just as well and is the least complicated. In the end, it still basically tastes the same.
Traditionally, red Burgundy wine is used in the recipe. I believe in using decent wine in recipes focusing on what the wine brings to the dish. If the dish benefits from some sweetness, then using an off-dry or sweet wine is appropriate. In this case, the wine is the braising liquid and adds depth and complexity to the sauce. To me, a wine made from a single varietal doesn’t always have much complexity unless the winemaker puts a little extra into it by aging it in oak. Good Burgundy aged in oak tends to be rather expensive. A cheaper alternative is to use a wine made from a blend of several varietals with less new oak aging. Sticking to wine from France, I decided to use some inexpensive Côtes du Rhône to add more depth and richness to the sauce.
Serves 4 to 6
Prep time: 15-20 minutes. Cooking time: 3 hours.
6 slices thick-cut bacon
2 – 2.5 lb. beef chuck roast cut into 2 inch chunks
1 large carrot minced
1 large onion minced
2 cloves garlic
1 bottle wine, Burgundy or Pinot Noir, or Côtes du Rhône
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 Tb. tomato paste
1 tsp. beef bouillon granules or 1 cube
3 Tb. flour
7 oz. package frozen pearl onions
1 lb. white button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper
In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon on medium heat just until crispy. Remove from pan with tongs, place on a paper towel and refrigerate. Drain and reserve the bacon grease from the pan. Generously salt and pepper the beef. Heat 1 Tb. of the bacon grease until it starts to smoke and brown the beef, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the beef to a plate.
Sauté the carrot and onion in the pan with 1 Tb bacon grease until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Reserve 1/2 cup of the wine and slowly add the rest of the bottle to the pan, scraping the pan. Add the tomato paste, bouillon, bay and thyme and allow the fond to come to a boil. Add the beef and any liquid on the plate, arrange so the beef is covered in liquid, cover the pot and simmer on low for 1.5 to 2 hours, turning the beef occasionally.
When the beef is tender, skim the pot to remove excess fat. Remove the bay leaves. Add the flour to the remaining wine, whisk and add to the pot. Stir the sauce and bring to a boil. Crumble and add the bacon along with the mushrooms, stir and simmer for 15 more minutes. Test the sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Add the frozen pearl onions and bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over buttered egg noodles or simply by itself.