Friday, September 30, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon

I just finished Julia Child's book, My Life in France, and I am amazed by her passion, enthusiasm, and dedication to cooking, all the while keeping her sense of humor. She took such care in developing recipes, testing them many times, and really using each ingredient to its fullest potential, including lots of butter. :) Her recipes aren't always quick or low-fat, but they are guaranteed to be delicious. 

Boeuf Bourguignon, one of her most famous recipes, definitely falls into the delicious category. This beef stew, braised in red wine, with bacon, onions, and mushrooms, is truly a work of art. This work of art takes time, I mean A LOT of time, but it isn't hard and the results are well worth it. You can also prepare this a day ahead of time and reheat the next day. This recipe is long but I didn't want to skip too many steps since who am I to mess with Julia. The end result is a perfectly cooked and seasoned beef stew that literally falls apart and is covered in the richest and most decadent sauce. This may be the best meal I have ever had in my life. 

Boeuf Bourguignon
Servings: 6

2 slices center-cut bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch sticks
1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
3 lbs. chuck roast, trimmed and sliced into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine, such as Pinot noir, Burgundy, or Chianti
2 to 3 cups beef stock or broth
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Braised onions (see below)
Sautéed mushrooms (see below)

For the braised onions:
18 to 24 small white onions or 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup beef stock or broth
4 sprigs fresh parsley 
1/2 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme

For the sautéed mushrooms:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
1/2 lb. fresh button mushrooms, quartered

To prepare the stew, in a large saucepan, simmer the bacon in 6 cups of water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry on paper towels. Preheat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl or 9 x 13 baking dish. Preheat the oven to 450°.

Dry the beef with paper towels. Add the beef, a few pieces at a time, to the hot oil and bacon fat in the dutch oven. Brown the meat, on medium to med-high heat, on all sides and add it to the dish with the bacon. (Tips on browning: make sure the pan and oil are very hot before adding the meat. You should hear the meat sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. Do not crowd the pan. There should be at least 1 inch of space between each piece of meat. Do not touch, move, or flip the meat until nicely browned on one side. This may take many batches to finish browning all of the meat.) 

Add the carrots and onions to the dutch oven, using the same fat, and cook over medium heat until browned and softened. Add the beef and bacon back into the dutch oven with the carrots and onions. Toss with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add the flour and stir to coat. Transfer the dutch oven, uncovered, to the preheated 450° oven on the middle rack. Cook for 4 minutes, stir, and cook for another 4 minutes to brown the flour and add a light crust to the meat. Remove the dutch oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325°. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position.

Add the wine to the beef and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, cover and transfer to the preheated 325° oven, on the lower third rack. Cook for 3 to 4 hours or until the meat pierces easily with a fork. While the beef is cooking, prepare the braised onions and mushrooms.

To prepare the braised onions, in a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Once the butter/oil is bubbling, add the onions and sauté for 10 minutes, rolling every few minutes so they brown evenly on all sides. 

After the onions have browned, add the beef stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Tie the parsley sprigs, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine or a cheesecloth, and add to the skillet. Cover and gently simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the onions are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herbs, transfer the onions to a large bowl, and set aside.

To prepare the mushrooms, in a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium to med-high heat. As soon as the butter foam begins to subside, add the mushrooms, and stir/toss occasionally. (Note: Do not over-crowd the skillet or the mushrooms will steam and not brown. This may need to be done in batches.). Sauté until they have browned lightly, and transfer to the bowl with the braised onions.

To assemble the stew, remove the dutch oven from the oven. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaf. (Optional: Pour the contents of the dutch oven into a sieve set over saucepan, and return the beef and bacon to the dutch oven, discarding the carrots and onions. I omitted this step because I like carrots and onions in my stew. I left everything in the dutch oven.) Skim the fat off the top of the sauce. Add the braised onions and mushrooms. Taste the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, then thin with additional beef stock or water (if too salty) to reach the desired consistency. If the sauce is too thin, simmer until the desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with potatoes, egg noodles, or rice. Garnish with fresh flat-leaf parsley.

Source: adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking 

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