February 28, 2015 Leave your thoughts
This winter has been brutal for us Northeasterners. I think this month was the third coldest February on record, I believe? The combination of sub-zero temperatures, blustering winds, and piles and piles of snow has been hard both on the mind and the body, so I’m honestly happy to be kissing February goodbye.
Warm food has been an absolute necessity the past few weeks. And this Boeuf Bourguignon…well, it’ll pretty much comfort you through any amount of wintry precipitation.
As a self-confessed (and sometimes obnoxious) francophile, I adore a good boeuf bourguignon, otherwise known as a delicious beef stew made with bacon, tons of carrots and pearled onions, and red wine. After seeing Julie and Julia when I was in sixth grade, I pretty much forced my dad to make the infamous dish for me, and I make a habit to order it at least once every time I visit Paris.
This was the first time I actually made the dish myself, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the results, even though any good French chef would probably guillotine me if he discovered I used neither flour nor butter in my rendition.
The tricks to making a really outstanding boeuf bourguignon are to use good-quality ingredients and let all of the ingredients braise for A LONG TIME. Most recipes will suggest cooking the dish for an hour and a half or so; I’d say at least two and a half hours are needed to get the beef tender and meld all of the wonderful flavors together.
Don’t fret, though! This extra time needed only means you’ll have a few more hours to laze about and breathe in the wonderful smells. And I promise that waiting will make it taste even more delicious.
I don’t want you to get intimidated by the French name–I want you to be confident and cook this dish, because it’s really not that difficult! You won’t break a sweat and your family, friends, and cats will be impressed that you can make something so chouette.
First, you chop up your bacon into not-too-big cubes…
…crisp it up, then brown your stew meat…
…saute the veggies for a while, then add back the bacon and beef along with broth, tomato paste, and wine…
…and stick it where the sun don’t shine (AKA the oven) for a couple of hours before adding…*drumroll please*…
…THE MUSHROOMS!!!!!!!!!!!! (Can you tell I like mushrooms a lot?!)
OK, there’s enough fungus among us. Onto the actual recipe.
I am such a Francophile sometimes, especially when it comes to French food. This is a classic dish from the Burgundy region of France, and while it sounds complicated, it’s not as hard as you might think! I made a few adaptions to lighten the dish up a bit, and I promise you won’t miss any of the butter or flour.
In the words of Julia Child, the inspiration for this recipe,”BON APPÉTIT!”
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten
Yield 8 servings
8 ounces of slab bacon, roughly diced (I used beef bacon, but pork is fine too)
2 1/2 – 3 lb beef stew meat, cubed into 1-inch pieces
1 lb carrots, washed well and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 large onions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of cognac
3 cups of good red wine
3 cups of low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 lb mushrooms, roughly sliced
1 lb frozen pearl onions
2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder + 4 tablespoons of water
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Heat a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot on the stovetop over medium heat, then add the diced bacon. Cook until most of the fat has been rendered and the bacon has been browned, about 10 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.
Toss the stew meat with 1 teaspoon of salt and add half of the pieces to the remaining bacon fat in the Dutch oven. Cook until the beef has been browned, about 5-6 minutes, rotating the pieces once or twice to ensure even browning. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, then repeat the same process with the remaining pieces.
Pour off all but about 1-2 tablespoons of the accumulated fat and add the carrots and onions. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and saute until slightly softened and golden-brown, about 15 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
Slowly pour in the cognac and red wine. Increase the heat slightly and bring to a boil. Let cook for 3-4 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol, then stir in the beef broth, tomato paste, thyme, bacon, and stew meat pieces. Bring to a boil once more, then cover the pot with a lid and place in the preheated oven.
Cook for 2 1/2 hours, stirring every half an hour or so. You’re ready to move onto the next step when the beef and carrots are tender.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt, and cook until starting to brown and becoming soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
When the beef and vegetables are ready, add the mushrooms along with the frozen pearl onions. Cook on the stovetop over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of the arrowroot powder with 2 tablespoons of cool water. Pour the mixture into the stew, reduce the heat to low, and stir well. If needed, whisk together the remaining tablespoon of arrowroot powder with 2 more tablespoons of cool water and add to the stew to thicken further.
Let cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve hot with smashed potatoes, your favorite grain, or over a bed of roasted vegetables.
What is your favorite comfort food when the weather gets super cold? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!