Saturday, 27 February 2016

Beef Bourguignon

Beef bourguignon is a classic French stew, using red wine for the majority of the liquid, and beef stock for the rest. Originating in the Burgundy region of France, the wine that is used is typically a Burgundy red...this is not a hard and fast rule, especially if you are making this as a way to use up left over red wine, which is what I was doing.

The classic vegetables are onions, garlic and mushrooms, with the addition of pearl onions near the end of cooking. I added my last few carrots and bit of zucchini, because they were there to use.

I had no pearl onions, so I just used yellow onions.

This stew is cooked low and slow, to allow the meat to cook until it is fork tender. It is a perfect dish for using cheaper, tougher cuts of beef.

Cut your beef into 1" chunks. I used:

2 pounds inside round

Season the meat with salt and pepper, and sear in a hot pan, using a bit of olive oil.

When the meat is seared on all sides, remove it and set aside until needed.


3 rashers of bacon

Cook the bacon in the same pot that was used to sear the beef. Stir often to prevent sticking and burning.

When the bacon is starting to crisp, add the vegetables:

3 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 zucchini, diced
6 - 8 button mushrooms, quartered

Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are starting to soften slightly.

Stir in:

1/4 cup tomato paste

Cook for 2 minutes.


1/4 cup flour

Cook, stirring to coat all of the vegetables, for 2 - 3 minutes.

Return the meat to the pot, along with:

1 1/2 cups red wine
2 bayleaves
a sprig of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Bring to a boil, stirring.

When the wine starts to boil, add enough beef stock to cover the meat and vegetables. Bring to a boil, stirring.

Cover and simmer until the meat is tender; 3 - 4 hours.

Remove the bayleaves and herb stems from the stew. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve, accompanied by warm, crusty bread to dip into the delicious gravy.

  • Cooking the stew long and slow allows tougher cuts of meat to become tender, and because tougher cuts are often cheaper this is a great way to save money. Try using cuts such as bottom round, chuck roast, shoulder roast, top round.
  • The meat can be cooked on the stove top, covered and simmered, which is what I did. It can also be cooked in the oven at 350F, or in a slow cooker. The key being to cook it for a long time at a low setting in order to effectively break down the connective tissues in the meat and give you the tender pieces you want.
  • Quickly searing the meat seals in the flavour. It also adds a layer of caramelization to the meat, which in turn adds a lot of flavour, depth and a bit of sweetness to the stew.
  • The classic recipe for beef bourguignon calls for you to use a whole bottle of wine. I never do that; instead I use up leftover red wine. We are white wine drinkers, but occasionally buy red wine to make things like Braised Chicken Thighs with Capers, Raisins and Shallots  or beef bourguignon. 
  • If you do not have beef stock, or do not have enough to cover the meat and vegetables completely, use water.
  • Pearl onions are a classical garnish for this stew. If you are not able to buy them peeled and frozen, you will need to peel the fresh onions. The best way to do this is to quickly blanch them in boiling water, then using a sharp knife cut off the root end of the onion and gently squeeze it out of the skin. If you do not want to use pearl onions, just use yellow onions as I did.
  • By adding the extra vegetables in the form of carrots and zucchini the basic flavour of the stew was not changed. In fact, the carrots added a bit of sweetness.
  • The bacon adds saltiness, so I always season lightly at each step of the cooking process...browning the meat, cooking the vegetables...and then adjust the seasoning at the end.
  • The stew can be made 2 - 3 days ahead of time; the flavour intensifies over time. It can also be frozen, cooked or uncooked (cut all the ingredients and freeze in a large re-sealable bag, with the meat and bacon in a separate small bag; all of the prep is done, which saves a lot of time).
  • A benefit to making the stew the day before is the fact that when it cools the fat rises to the top, and once it has been chilled this fat layer sets and is easy to remove from the stew.
  • Add less flour, or more liquid and cut the meat into smaller pieces and you can easily turn this into a soup.
  • The gravy is the best part of this meal, in my opinion, so make sure to serve it with bread, dumplings or noodles to help soak up all that yummy goodness.

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