I have frequently heard my mom tell the story of one of her early cooking misadventures, in which she invited friends over for dinner (including my father), and served beef bourguignon. The recipe called for three cloves of garlic. She was not an experienced cook, and did not know what a “clove” referred to, so she added 3 entire heads of garlic to the stew. She realized her mistake, and tried unsuccessfully to fish out the garlic. She ended up nervously serving the dish anyways, to a group of friends who politely complimented it.
Her birthday was yesterday, and she requested that I make beef bourguignon for dinner. I started searching for recipes, and found that most were pretty complicated. Then, I came across an article and recipe from the New York Times, addressing this very issue. The article explains that the recipe popularized by Julia Child is the boeuf bourguignon of French chefs, not the dish that most French home cooks would make. They offer a simpler version, from Ginette Mathiot’s “Je Sais Cuisiner” (“I Know How to Cook”), which they describe as a more sensible alternative for the everyday cook.
I rarely cook meat, so this represented somewhat of an adventure for me, even with the simpler recipe. It takes a good chunk of the day, with about 30 minutes of preparation and 2 1/2 hours of simmering time. The result is rich and flavorful and perfect for this rainy weather that will not end. The recipe I used did not call for carrots, which the others did, but I wanted to include them anyway. I steamed the carrots until they were just tender, and then sauteed them in olive oil, and served them on top of the stew. I served it with a french baguette, and it was wonderful.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 ounces onions or shallots, chopped
- 3 1/2 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
- 1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces, patted dry
- Scant 1/4 cup flour
- 1 1/4 cups any type of stock, hot
- 1 1/4 cups red wine
- 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 sprigs parsley, tied together)
- Black pepper
- 3 1/2 ounces mushrooms, diced
- bunch small carrots or 2 large carrots (optional)
In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove them and set aside; leave fat in pan.
Add beef and brown on all sides (work in two batches if needed to avoid crowding).
Sprinkle browned beef with flour, stir until browned and add stock. Stir, scraping bottom of pan, then add reserved bacon and onions, the wine and bouquet garni. Season with pepper.
Simmer very gently for 2 hours.
Add mushrooms and cook 30 minutes more.
While stew is simmering, steam or sauté carrots. Season stew with salt, top with carrots, and serve.