Do you have a cooking bucket list? I do and beef bourguignon has been on it for a very long time – five years, in fact. I’ve always been too intimidated to give it a try and the idea of possibly screwing up this iconic dish kept me from giving it a go so it stayed on the list for a very long time.
Until last weekend.
Last weekend I finally found the courage to tackle it and found the experience so wonderful that I am still feeling the positive effects almost a week later. You start with simple ingredients – beef, bacon, onions, butter, herbs and red wine – and over the course of several hours transform them into a dish that is so delicious, so intoxicating you will think that some kind of spell was cast over your kitchen by the cooking gods. However, it’s not magic that makes beef bourguignon so amazing – it’s the process of layering flavors, slowly, over several hours. The result is a glossy and silky sauce that coats the tender melt-in-your-mouth beef. The flavor is complex, rich and in a class all it’s own, but don’t worry – making beef bourguignon is not complicated. All it takes is time, patience, and a few kitchen skills. Whether you make this for yourself, your family, or guests I know you won’t be disappointed. Don’t wait five years like I did to try it. Seriously.
About the recipe: you’ll notice it’s lengthy. That’s because I’ve done my best to write out each step in a way that is easy to follow, as well as I’ve included important notes about the preparation. Making and serving this on the same day is challenging, so I spread the preparation across two days and have indicated in the recipe the first day stopping point. Making this over two days not only makes the whole process easier, but allows the flavor to further develop while the stew chills overnight.
This one was a labor of love and I’m so glad I took the leap. I hope you try it and that it makes you as happy as it made me.
- 8 ounces sliced bacon, cut into 1½ inch slices
- 1 lb lean stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large white onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 3 cups red wine (either Cabernet or Pinot Noir)
- 1½ cups beef broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 20 white pearl onions, peeled
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- Salt & Pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- In an oven-safe stock pot (see notes) heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the bacon until browned and fat is rendered. Remove the bacon leaving the fat behind in the pan.
- Dry the beef thoroughly (otherwise it won't sear well) and sprinkle it with a few pinches of salt and pepper
- Add the beef to the hot bacon fat and sear on all sides. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to do this in batches. Overcrowding the pan will make it difficult to get a nice sear on the beef. Once browned remove the beef from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pot, saute the sliced onion until softened and lightly browned.
- Return the beef and bacon to the pot with the onion.
- Sprinkle the flour over the top and toss it with the bacon, beef and onions
- Turn off the burner and move the pot to the oven, uncovered. Roast the beef for about 4-5 minutes, then toss the ingredients, and return to the oven to roast for another 4-5 minutes.
- Take the pot back to the stove and turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees
- Over medium heat, pour the wine over the beef and stir in a ½ cup of beef stock, or enough to just cover the top of the beef.
- Add the tomato paste, garlic, 2 sprigs each of thyme and parsley and one bay leaf. Stir to combine and bring it to a simmer.
- Turn the burner off and place the pot in the oven with lid on.
- Let it simmer for 3-4 hours in the oven (adjust the temperature up and down as needed) or until the beef is fork tender.
- Remove the pot from the oven.
- At this point, you can keep the stew in the fridge until the next day. Allow it to cool slightly, cover it with plastic wrap, and pop it in the fridge.
- Next pour yourself a glass of wine - you deserve it!
- The next day, about an hour and half before you are ready to serve the dish, start prepping the white pearl onions following the tutorial included in the notes
- Before cooking the onions, remove the pot of stew from the fridge and warm over low heat. Use a splash of beef stock to loosen the sauce, if necessary. Once warmed, turn off the heat and cover with a lid.
- Heat 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil in a large pan. Brown the onions by moving them around the pan with a spatula.
- Once browned, add in ½ cup of beef broth and the remaining thyme, parsley and bay leaf
- Simmer on medium low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the onions are soft but still hold their shape
- Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and discard the herbs and any left over stock.
- In the same pan melt 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil and turn the burner up to medium high.
- Add the mushrooms and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned
- Remove them from the heat and set aside
- Using a fine mesh sieve, drain the sauce from the pot into a smaller sauce pan.
- Set the pot with the beef aside and discard the herb stems and bay leaf
- Heat the sauce over medium heat until it comes to a simmer
- Allow the sauce to reduce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon
- Warm the pot with the beef over medium low heat and pour the thickened sauce over the top. Add in the mushrooms and onions. Stir gently to combine.
- Serve the beef bourguignon on it's own, or ladled over cooked egg noodles, rice or with cooked potatoes (see notes)
I adapted this recipe from Julia Child's famous recipe and you may notice a couple of big differences. First, I only used one pound of beef, which means my versions is a little soupier than the original. I like how it turned out - it produces four very generous helpings Also, the original recipe calls for carrots which I completely forgot to buy, so I just left them out. Not a big deal. If you decide to use carrots I recommend consulting the original recipe since I just completely skipped over that part.
I chose to use fresh white pearl onions instead of frozen ones, which is a popular substitute. Using the fresh ones adds a couple steps, so I recommend checking out this tutorial if you've never worked with fresh ones before. I really hope you do, because once cooked, fresh pearl onions have subtle sweetness and are not overly onion-y. They literally melt in your mouth like candy. If you do decide to use frozen ones, just toss them in at the end after you've reduced the sauce and added it to the beef. They will warm quickly in the hot stew.
You can serve the stew all on it's own or with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, egg noodles or rice. Whatever makes you happy!