Monday, March 21, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon

Sense of Home

Boeuf Bourguignon
~adapted from Cooking at Home by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin~
Serves 6

2 tablespoons bacon grease, more if needed
Approximately 3 pounds good quality stew meat
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups roughly chopped onion
1 1/2 cups peeled and roughly chopped carrot
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
3 bay leaves
A handful of parsley stems (about 10)
1 head garlic, cloves separated and crushed but not peeled
1 large tomato, cored and chopped, or 3/4 cup canned tomatoes, drained
1 bottle full-bodied red wine, preferably a pinot noir
1 to 2 cups rich beef stock

For the Onion and Mushroom Garnish
2 medium-sized onions, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup or more rich beef stock
10 ounces fresh Baby Bella mushrooms

For finishing the sauce
2 tablespoon soft butter, or more as needed
2 tablespoons flour, or more
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup or more red wine (same as you are serving at the table)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Dry the beef chunks on paper towels and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon or more of freshly ground pepper all over them.  Place a tablespoon or more of bacon grease into a frying pan.  Heat until the fat is very hot, but not smoking, and set in a batch of beef chunks in a single layer, with a little space between them (if they are overcrowded they will steam rather than sear).  Brown the pieces, turning them with tongs.  Remove from the frying pan as soon as they are browned on all sides and place them in a large oven-safe stew pot, add more beef chunks and continue browning in installments, adding more bacon grease as needed.  When beef is all browned, drain and discard any excess grease from the pan.  Pour a cup or so of the wine into the pan and bring to a simmer.  Deglaze the browned bits in the pan bottom, scraping them up with a wooden spoon, then pour the liquid over the beef in the stew pot.

Place the chopped onion, carrot, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, tomato and garlic cloves in the stew pot with the beef. Pour the remaining wine and enough beef stock just to cover the meat chunks.

Bring the liquid to a simmer on the top of the stove, cover and set into the preheated oven (may also be simmered slowly on the stove-top, covered and stirring occasionally).  Cook for about 2 hours, keep the stew at a barely active simmer, until the beef is fork-tender but not falling apart.  Test the meat at 15 minute intervals after the first 1 1/2 hours of stewing, don't overcook.

When meat is done, place stew pot on the stove-top.  Place a fine strainer over a large bowl and spoon juices, beef, and vegetables through the strainer, picking out the beef chunks with a tongs and placing them in the bowl with the juices.  After all the vegetables and herbs have been strained out, discard, then place the juices and beef back in the large stew pot.

Preparing the onion and mushroom garnish
Lightly caramelize the onions with the butter, sugar, and salt in the same frying pan as the beef was browned in. Add beef stock and whole mushrooms and cook them together over moderate-heat as the mushrooms begin to brown and the stock reduces.  Set the onions and mushrooms aside and deglaze the pan with a few spoonfuls of wine or stock and pour that into the stew pot.

Finishing the sauce
Return the stew to a gentle simmer for approximately 10 minutes, turn off heat.  With a whisk, blend 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of soft or melted butter in a small bowl to make a thick paste, or beurre manie.  Gradually whisk a half-cup or so of the stew broth into the paste until there are no lumps.  Blend this into the stew and bring to a simmer again.  Cook for a couple of minutes and check the consistency of the sauce.  If you want it thicker mix up more beurre manie, and add.  Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if needed.

Serve beef and sauce in individual pasta bowls topped with the onion and mushroom garnish, with mashed potatoes or noodles on the side.

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