When we were at the butcher, we inquired about a “paleron” cut at Olivier’s and were told it was perfect for beef bourguignon, so we grabbed two pounds and set out researching this French classic. We’d never made a beef bourguignon before. Our culinary experiences tend more toward the Italian side.
With some ideas and techniques inspired by Julia Child and Thomas Keller, this is what we came up with. Note that the vegetables you’ll actually eat with the stew are added at the very end because we agree with chef Keller that mushy vegetables that have given all their flavor to the sauce already are not very good. We guarantee that if you follow these directions exactly, you will present your dinner guests with an elegant and highly refined beef stew that everyone will want more of.
This is also cooked on a stove instead of in the oven. This allows you to more easily skim off the fat and impurities. A good cast iron dutch oven is key to this technique because it holds a lot of heat and seems to cook more gently than a steel stock pot. We typically use Staub or Le Crusette enamaled cast iron dutch ovens. Some good options are here, here, and here.
- 2 lbs beef (preferably paleron or a type of stew meat), 1-2 inch cubes
- ½ lb bacon, half inch lardons
- 2 onions, quarter inch slices
- 2 shallots, quarter inch slices
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 sprigs fresh parsley
- 6 whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 lbs crimini or button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- beef stock
- 1 bottle red wine, preferably Burgundy
- 2 potatoes
- 12 cipollini or pearl onions
- Salt and pepper the beef.
- Brown the bacon in a large cast iron dutch oven, When crispy, remove to a plate and drain off some of the extra grease.
- Add the beef to the pan in batches, browning on all sides. As they brown, drain and add to the plate with the bacon.
- Add the onions, shallots, and ½ of the carrots, stirring frequently until they are softened and beginning to brown.
- Add the bacon and beef back to the pan, and toss with 2 tablespoons of flour. Put in 425 degree oven uncovered for about 10 minutes, tossing the beef with tongs after about 5 minutes. The beef should brown more.
- Remove from the oven and put back on the stove. Don’t forget the pan is really hot from being in an oven. You’ll need to remind yourself not to touch it.
- Add the wine, and enough beef stock to barely cover the meat and vegetables. Add thyme, parsley, peppercorns, bay leafs, and garlic. Bring to simmer, cover, and simmer about 2.5 hours, skimming occasionally as fat and other impurities rise to the surface.
- You can use this opportunity to cut all your mushrooms into slices and sauté them in butter until they are very soft and all the liquid has been released and evaporated. Also, sauté your pearl or cipollini onions, potatoes, and ½ of the carrots in butter just to coat them and start softening them a bit.
- When you can break the meat with a spoon, remove all the meat and put on a clean plate. Strain the sauce mixture through a chinois or fine mesh strainer, rinse the pan, and add the meat and sauce back.
- Return to the stove and add the cooked chopped carrots, potatos, onions, and mushrooms. Simmer over low heat just until you can pierce the potatoes and carrots with a fork.
- Admire your work and serve right away.
This dish always reminds me of the movie Julie and Julia, which inspired many of my early culinary dreams. Despite that fact, I have never made it. Would love to give this one a try!
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