Table Talk

Food & Drink - February 6th, 1987
Boeuf Bourguignon

The province of Burgundy, southeast of Paris, is justifiably famous for its excellent wines and hearty cooking. Boeuf Bourguignon happily combines both.

The culinary masterpieces of France’s chefs are recognized throughout the world, and many people automatically as­sociate excellence in the kitchen with the French haute cuisine tradition. French provincial cooking differs somewhat from this tradition in its reliance upon locally abundant foods and also its propensity for cooking many ingredients toge­ther with the result that the sauce is an integral part of the dish rather than a separately prepared addition; Coq au Vin and Boeuf a la Mode come to mind as examples of this.

Like any stew, there are many ways to prepare Boeuf Bourguignon; however, I was struck by the great variety not only in ingredients but even in method among the recipes I found. For example, some recipes call for adding cognac, or even coffee to the sauce, and in some the meat is mari­nated while in others it is not. I have found that the slow cooking in wine tenderizes the meat to a “cut-it-with-a-fork” consistency, so the recipe which follows does not include marinating.

In selecting the cut of meal to use for stews, there seem to be two schools of thought. One is that using the best quality meat will result in a far superior stew, and the other is that the very purpose of stewing is to tenderize inferior cuts of meat so that using any­thing other than stewing meal is unnecessary. This is one area where personal preference will have to be your guide.

Boeuf Bourguignon is an excellent party dish — it can be made a day ahead of time, the recipe is easily multiplied, and it is a meal in itself. Boiled potatoes are sometimes served with it, and buttered noodles or rice would do just as well In our family, we often forego these and serve the stew with toasted hard rolls and a first course of green salad. In any case, a glass of Burgundy is a most appropriate accompaniment!

Boeuf Bourguienon (6 servings)

  • 1/2 pound whole slab boneless bacon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 24 small peeled white onions (frozen onions may be substituted)
  • 3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Bouquet garni made of 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme, and 4 sprigs of parsley tied together
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup canned beef stock
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Cut the bacon into thin strips about 1 inch long.
  • Brown the bacon strips in 1 tablespoon of butter until crisp. Remove the bacon strips and set aside. Pour the pork fat from the skillet into a container and set aside. A thin film of fat will remain on the bottom of the skillet.
  • Brown the onions in the film of pork fat. Remove the onions and set aside.
  • In another skillet, brown the mushrooms in 3 table­spoons of butter. Remove and set aside.
  • In the same skillet in which the onions were cooked, place the beef cubes and brown them evenly on all sides. If necessary, add additional pork fat to the skillet.
  • When the beef cubes are browned, transfer them to a 6-quart  casserole.
  • To make the roux to thicken the sauce, add the chopped shallots and carrots to the fat remaining in the skillet and stir in 3 tablespoons of flour. Brown the shallots and carrots over low heat, pressing them with a wooden spoon to a paste-like consistency. Set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the beef stock and Burgundy wine and  add these to the roux.
  • Add the tomato paste, garlic and dried thyme to the stock/wine mixture in the skillet and cook over medium heat, blending vigorously with a wire whisk.
  • Pour the sauce from the skillet into the casserole with the beef cubes and add the bouquet garni and freshly ground pepper. Scrape the skillet well; the bits of brown­ed beef that cling to the bottom of the skillet are what will give the sauce its special flavor. If there is not enough sauce to cover the beef, a” more wine to the casserole.
  • Place the casserole in a preheated 350° oven for 3 hours or until the beef is tender.
  • Remove the casserole from the oven, add the onions, mushrooms and bacon strips, stir gently, and return to the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Take the casserole out of the oven; remove and discard the bouquet garni and skim off any surface fat. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs and serve.