Boeuf a la Bourguignonne: An Old Classic Becomes New

Boeuf a la Bourguignonne… a French classic indeed!  One’s thoughts automatically drift to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking published in 1961.  She has been both an idol and inspiration in our kitchen for years. Our dear friend Fran was recently in Washington, D.C., on business and had the oportunity to soak up that great culinary legend’s spirit when she visited Julia’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen at the Smithsonian.  When Julia returned to her home state of California in 2001 she donated her Cambridge kitchen to the Museum for all lovers of fine food to enjoy for generations to come.  When Fran told us abour her adventure we were both green with envy, hoping to have the opportunity to experience this exhibition ourselves sometime in the future.

A signature French dish, Boeuf a la Bourguignonne is genuinely sacred in the world of French cuisine.  It is one of those dishes that you simply don’t mess with!  The steps by which this dish is created are both held in high regard and rigidly followed by purists.  However, Dayton has taken creative license and made this spectacular dish his own.  As we were at the stove one chilly day not long ago preparing to embark on a culinary adventure that would take four hours from start to finish Dayton proclaimed with a chuckle, “The culinary academy would have expelled me immediately if I had dared to prepare Boeuf a la Bourguignonne using this technique as a student!”  Dayton has turned this classic into a suave new dish abundant with rich flavor and velvety textures.  It is a dish that is well worth the time involved in its preparation!

Boeuf a la Bourguignonne

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  To a heavy 12-inch sauteuse over moderate heat add:

  • 6 strips bacon, sliced crosswise in 1/2-inch strips

Saute slowly until bacon is browned and is rendered of as much fat as possible:

Chef’s Note:  In the preparation of this dish it is requisite that gentle heat be used to prevent burning and scorching in the bottom of the pan.  All browned bits will ultimately be deglazed and used in the gravy to add rich flavor to the completed dish.

Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain, using a slotted spoon.  There should be approximately 4 – 5 tablespoons of rendered fat in the pan.  If not, supplement with extra virgin olive oil.  To the pan add and brown well, in batches:

  • 3 1/2 – 4 lb chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2 – 1 3/4- inch cubes, patted dry to promote browning:

Chef’s Note:  It is imperative that the meat not be overcrowded or it won’t brown.  Turn the pieces with tongs to ensure browning on all sides.  Again, brown the meat slowly and gently.  This portion of preparing this dish is the most time consumptive… as well as probably the most important, so be patient and take your time!

Transfer browned chuck to a Dutch oven or enameled cast iron casserole:

To the sauteuse add:

  • 1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, cut in half then into 1/2-inch pieces

Saute until onions just begin to color.  Add:

  • 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Saute an additional 2 – 3 minutes.  Do not scorch the onions!  Transfer the vegetables to the casserole:

Chef’s Note:  The bottom of the sauteuse will, at this point, be thoroughly covered with unscorched rich brown bits.  This is exactly what we want!

To the sauteuse add:

  • 4 T unsalted butter

When the butter is shimmering add:

  • 5 T all-purpose flour

Whisk until flour is mocha in color and add:

  • 2 1/2 C beef stock
  • 1 1/2 T tomato paste

Continue whisking and add:

2 1/2 C red wine  (we recommend a Pinot Noir)

Continue whisking.  This will make the gravy homogenous and incorporate the rich brown bits that have been collecting in the bottom of the sauteuse:

To the gravy add:

  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Pour the gravy into the casserole and stir to combine:

Cover casserole and place in the oven for 1 1/2  – 2 hours, or until meat is tender.  Meanwhile, in a clean 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat add:

  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil

When butter stops foaming and bubbling add:

  • 25 – 30 pearl onions, peeled

When onions are beginning to brown sprinkle with:

  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Chef’s Note:  The addition of a bit of sugar speeds up the caramelization process:

Continue to saute until the onions are richly caramelized:

To the skillet add:

  • 1/2 C beef stock

Cover the skillet and cook the onions till done, approximately 5 minutes.  Test for doneness with the tip of a paring knife.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Wash and dry the skillet, returning it to the stove.  Over moderately high heat add:

  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil

When the butter stops crackling add:

  • 1 lb small Crimini mushrooms

Saute until Criminis begin to brown, approximately 5 – 6 minutes:

Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  When the meat is tender remove casserole from the oven.  With a pair of tongs remove the tender beef and set aside.  Strain  the gravy through a China cap into a large pot to remove the solids.  Press the solids with the back of a ladle to capture every drop of rich gravy.  Defat the gravy.  Wash and dry the casserole, returning it to the stovetop.  Transfer the reserved meat, mushrooms and onions back to the casserole:

Add the gravy and stir well to incorporate.  Bring to a simmer over moderate heat to reheat all ingredients, simmering  2 – 3 additional minutes:

Ladle into warmed soup bowls.  Serve with boiled new potatoes or Yukon golds, seasoned with butter, salt and pepper.  This dish is rich with flavor and more than worthy to be served at your most elegant dinner party with a velvety Pinot Noir... or as an intimate dinner for two with delicious left-overs for another night or two.  Boeuf a la Bourguignonne is a magnificent dish that can be prepared in advance and heated prior to service.  It’s even better the next day… Bon Appetit!

Copyright 2009 Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved



Categories: Beef

Author:Steve Meyer & Dayton Azevedo

Food and fine cooking have been our passion for many years, fueled by the year-around abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats, as well as aromatic spices and herbs readily available to us here in the San Francisco Bay Area, making adventuresome, creative and delicious 5-star cooking a reality in our kitchen. Our aim is to make it yours as well by utilizing our step by step instructions and serial photographs. Bon Appetit from our kitchen to yours...!


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