When the temperature drops and you can see your breathe in the air, it is time for slow cooked foods. Comfort foods such as hearty stews, simmering soups, and spicy chili are all soothing and nothing warms my tummy or soul more. I love tossing a bunch of ingredients into a Dutch oven and walking away, letting it simmer on the stove or in the oven for hours until meltingly tender and full of robust flavor. Added wine mellows during cooking, blending with the other ingredients and adding a touch of sophistication.
Beef Bourguignon (boorg-in-yohn) is a fancy French name for beef cooked slowly in Burgundy wine. The original recipes are labor intensive and time-consuming, but this version from the wonderful chef Nathalie Dupree, takes half the time and effort and gives you every bit of the rich flavor. The combination of beef, wine, carrots and onions slowly simmered for hours will have people flocking to your table.
If you haven’t discovered Nathalie Dupree, go check out her webpage. She is an absolutely delightful lady who just happens to be one of this country’s finest cookbook authors and television personalities, a lauded cooking teacher, amazing chef and champion of America’s southern heritage recipes. Nathalie is one of my go-to writers when I am looking for foolproof recipes and the history of southern recipes. Her recently published book, “Southern Biscuits” is the latest in a long line of award winning cookbooks that you should have in your library. I bought it and haven’t been able to put it down since I got it. Any of her many books will become treasured keepsakes to be passed down from generation to generation.
Because imported Burgundy can sometimes be challenging to find in America, you can substitute Pinot Noir or a light Merlot. Make sure you use a wine that is good enough to serve to guests – don’t scrimp just because you are cooking with it. If you are serving people who prefer not to have alcohol, you can replace the wine with a combination of half water and half stock.
Originally a peasant dish, Beef Bourguignon is now found on the menus of some of the world’s finest restaurants. Slow-cooking methods were developed to tenderize tougher and cheaper cuts of meat. You can save money and make an incredibly flavorful meal for your family with this technique. One of the tricks is to keep the heat low and never let the cooking liquid get above a simmer. A few hours later and the meat will melt in your mouth.
To replicate the original method of larding the meat with fats, you start this stew by rendering the fat from bacon. This adds a deep meat flavor and richness that makes it luscious. You can skip this step if you want, substituting olive oil, but I urge you to make it at least once with the bacon so you can experience the complexity it adds!
The recipe calls for cutting an onion lengthwise. I know this doesn’t sound important, but surprising it really does make a difference. Trim off both ends and peel the onion. Cut it in half lengthwise and lay each half cut side down on a cutting board. Slice each half lengthwise creating long slivers that hold their shape during the long hours of cooking. At the end you will have discernible onions instead of having them dissolving into the sauce. It makes the dish more appealing to look at and adds texture.
I adore cooked onions and I like to add even when I serve this dish, so I make some extras using a recipe from Julia Child. Very easy to make, I think they make this dish really sing. They would be good served with any roasted or grilled meats and may just wind up on your holiday table this year. Even though I have paired them here with the Bourguignon, never limit yourself. Always look at recipes as individual components of a larger picture and challenge yourself to “paint” with a variety of colors!
I grew up eating lots of stews and soups because our family didn’t have much money and these dishes could stretch my mother’s budget and help her get to the end of the month with a few dollars left in the bank account. She never cooked with wine because she wasn’t raised with that style of cooking. It is a shame because a splash of wine can transform a mundane dish into something memorable. If wine is outside of your budget, try using dry vermouth. It is very inexpensive and adds a nice acidity that balances dishes. While purists will insist on imported French wines (which are delicious), if you cannot afford them, this might be an option for you.
When you cook food slowly it fills your house with aromas that will have all your neighbors salivating. They will find excuses to drop by in hopes of being invited to dinner! This looks like it is going to be a long, cold winter, and having recipes like this one will certainly make it a lot more enjoyable!
Happy December everyone!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When you are adding wine to cooked foods, always use a wine that you would enjoy drinking. Products called “Cooking Wine” are foul tasting and will taint your final dish. I prefer to use the same wine to cook with that I will be serving at dinner. That way I don’t have to worry whether they will be complementary!
- 3 oz fatty bacon, cut into small pieces, or about 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2-1/2 lb beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut in 2-inch squares
- 2 onions, peeled, root end discarded and sliced lengthwise (from pole to pole, not around the equator)
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 to 3 cups of Burgundy wine (or other dry red wine)
- 2 to 3 cups good quality beef stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bouquet garni of bay leaf, stalk of celery, parsley, and thyme, tied with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed with salt
- 12 to 18 small white pearl onions, peeled and brown-braised in stock (see recipe below)
- 1/2 lb quartered small mushrooms, sautéed in butter
- Croutons of fried French bread dipped in finely chopped parsley
- Saute the bacon (or heat oil) in a heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat until brown. While the bacon is cooking, pat the meat completely dry with paper towels. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve. Add the meat to the hot pan and brown, a few pieces at a time. Browning the meat adds rich flavor and color to your dish. As the meat browns transfer it to a bowl set by the stove. When all the meat is browned, set it aside, add the sliced onions to the pan, and allow them to brown very slowly in the remaining drippings.
- Remove the onions. If you have no more drippings, add a little oil. You should have about 2 tbsp fat. Add the flour off the heat, stirring until smooth and lump-free, and then return to the heat for a few moments. When you have a well-combined roux, remove from the heat again, and stir in the wine and the stock, whisking until smooth. Return to the heat and stir until boiling. Add the meat, bacon, sliced onions, seasonings, vegetables, and garlic. Bring back to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325ºF.
- Transfer to the oven and simmer slowly until tender, about 3 to 4 hours. Meanwhile prepare onions, mushrooms, and croutons. When the meat is tender, add the onions and mushrooms and reheat briefly.
- Skim the fat off the sauce. Remove the solids and reserve. Simmer the sauce, skimming additional fat as it rises, until the sauce thickens and coats a spoon lightly. If it is bit too thin, boil it down rapidly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Arrange meat, mushrooms, and onions on a plate and cover with sauce carefully. Garnish with parsley croutons and serve.
- - You can use frozen pearl onions to save time (they are already peeled!). Thaw and brown lightly in a little butter, then add some beef stock and simmer until warmed through.
- - Make your own croutons: Cut crusts off half a loaf of rustic bread. Cut into 1-inch cubes, drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and crunchy. While hot, you can sprinkle them with very finely chopped fresh Italian parsley if you like.
- - Serve over buttered eggs noodles, mashed, boiled, or roasted potatoes, or cooked rice to soak up all the delicious sauce!
- 18 to 24 peeled white onions, about 1 inch in diameter
- 1-1/2 tbsp butter
- 1-1/2 tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 cup brown stock or beef bouillon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bouquet Garni
- 4 parsley sprigs,
- 2 thyme sprigs,
- 1 small bay leaf, tied together with twine
- 2 cloves garlic, optional
- Heat butter and oil in 9 to 10 inch sauté pan over medium heat. When bubbling, add the onions and sauté for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions around the pan so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins, but don’t expect to brown them uniformly.
- When browned, pour in the stock or bouillon, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herb bouquet garni.
- Roll the hot onions around in a tablespoon of softened butter, if desired. Sprinkle with parsley.