Living in Paris, one of the classic French dishes I have always wanted to master is Beef (Boeuf) Bourguignon. Almost every culture has its own version of a beef stew – my Chinese father’s version included such Asian seasonings as oyster sauce and star anise, but no red wine.
I like to cook by taste, which is often influenced by memories of flavors and aromas embedded on our tastebuds over time. So I started with a classic Julia Child recipe and adapted it to my simpler, stovetop method of cooking. I also added my Dad’s touch – a star anise, which spices up the carrots and the beef with a delicate sweetness.
As Julia writes in her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, there are more ways than one to arrive at a good Boeuf Bourguignon.
“Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes to be concocted by man,” says the famous chef. And I must agree!
Here’s my variation of Julia’s original recipe. Don’t be put off by the length, it’s actually not that difficult to make!
(serves 6 people)
For the beef stew:
- 200 g of lardons fumé, or chunks of smoked bacon
- 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 large carrots, cut into big chunks
- 18 to 24 pearl onions, peeled
- 3 cups young and full-bodied red wine (Bourgogne, Côtes du Rhone, or Pinot Noir work well)
- 3 cups beef stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 star anise (optional)
For the mushrooms:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 2-3 shallots, minced
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered
Stovetop Cooking Directions:
1) In a deep casserole, brown lardons, or chunks of bacon, in one tablespoon of olive oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to side dish with a slotted spoon.
2) Heat the remaining oil in casserole until almost smoking. Pat beef cubes dry in paper towels; they will not brown if they are damp. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.
3) In the same oil, lightly brown the sliced carrots and pearl onions. Set aside in separate bowls, keeping remaining oil in casserole.
4) Return the beef and bacon to the casserole, and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly for 4 minutes.
5) Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough to barely cover the meat. Add the carrots, tomato paste, sugar, garlic and herbs. Lower heat, cover casserole and let it all simmer for 3 to 4 hours (the longer the meat stews, the more tender it will be). After about 2 hours, add the pearl onions and star anise and cover the casserole again, then keep simmering.
6) While beef is cooking, prepare the shallots and mushrooms. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter and one tablespoon oil until the butter stops foaming. Add mushrooms, and stir fry for about 4 minutes. After 2 minutes, the mushrooms will start to brown with a beautiful sheen. Throw in the minced shallots and toss for another 2-3 minutes. Add the mushroom/shallot mixture to the stew during the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking, and cover the casserole.
7) The stew is done when a fork breaks the meat apart easily. If the sauce is too thin, stir in one tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water while boiling. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Adjust seasoning as desired.
Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with a nice bottle of red wine – Bourgogne of course!