Beef bourguignon, a classic French beef and red wine stew, is easily my all-time favorite winter comfort food. The absolute best part is that while the recipe does require a bit of work and time, it gets better with age and you’ll have enough stew to feed two people at least 3-4 times. Another plus? Your house will smell absolutely amazing on the day that you make this dish and it will warm you up on a cold winter day.
In my early years of cooking in France, I experimented with different recipes found online. Then, one of my best friends gave me Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I knew that this classic was the recipe, and that I didn’t have to look any further than the wonderfully detailed pages of this encyclopedia-sized masterpiece. After many, many run-throughs of this recipe (I’ve already made it three times this winter and it’s barely December!) I have tweaked it just enough to make it perfect for me. This includes adding whole cloves, using ready-cut lardons instead of the bacon rind that Julia boiled first and saving a bit of time by not being too fussy with my vegetables. I have learned that many of the seemingly time consuming and silly details of the recipe are in fact important, so don’t worry, I haven’t lost any of Julia’s meticulous perfection (I hope!).
Last, but not least, there is the pasta. I’ve never eaten a bourguignon with anything but pasta, although Julia recommends boiling potatoes or even steamed rice. I swear by pasta, and even if you just cook up whatever you have in the pantry, it will be delicious. If you’d like to go the extra mile, I highly recommend fresh pasta, although making the bourguignon and the pasta on the same day would make for quite a lot of work. If you’d like to try the pasta I made with this dish, the recipe can be found here on Smitten Kitchen. This was a new one for me, and I deviated from my classic recipe only because I had a ton of leftover egg yolks. The pasta were perfectly delicate and full of eggy flavor. Even with all the extra calories, I would highly recommend trying it.
Classic beef bourguignon
Adapted slightly from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Serves 2 for 3-4 meals
1 C lardons
1 T olive oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef
4-6 carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
2 onions, minced
2 T flour
3 C red wine
2-3 C stock
1 T tomato paste
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t dried thyme or herbes de provence
2 bay leaves
2-3 C mushrooms, quartered
The first thing you should do is prepare your beef if it isn’t already. While the fat will sort of melt away during the cooking process, I tend to like a leaner cut. You should have 2 inch cubes of meat, and they should be pressed dry using paper towels before you get started.
Begin by heating the olive oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or other oven-proof large cooking dish. Preheat your oven to 450°. Once the oil is hot, sautée the lardons for a couple of minutes to release the fat in them and brown them slightly. Remove to a large bowl and set aside.
Turn the heat up slightly and wait until the oil and fat are almost smoking before you begin browning the beef in batches. Try to get an even coat on all sides, and once individual pieces are finished, remove them and place in the bowl with the lardons. Repeat until all the meat is browned, adding a bit more olive oil if necessary.
Next, in the same dish, brown the onions and carrots, stirring often, for about 5-7 minutes. Once the onions become translucent, add the beef and lardons and season with salt and pepper. Add the flour and toss to coat the meat and vegetables. Place the dutch oven in the oven uncovered for four minutes. Remove, toss again, and heat for four minutes more. Remove, and turn the oven down to 325°.
Place the dutch oven back on the stovetop and add the tomato paste. Over medium heat, stir and brown the tomato paste for about 4-5 minutes. Next, pour in the wine, then add the stock until the meat is just covered. Toss in the garlic, cloves, mushrooms and herbs and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture is simmering, place covered into the oven and let it cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, checking after 2 to make sure you still have enough liquid. By the end, the sauce should be very greatly reduced and able to coat a spoon, and the meat should be falling apart (!!!). Remove from the oven and place on the stovetop, covered, until ready to eat. If the sauce is too thin, continue cooking on the stovetop until it reduces to your liking. Reheat slightly if need be. Serve with fresh or store-bought pasta.