Beef bourguignon or bœuf bourguignon, also called
beef Burgundy and boeuf à la bourguignonne, is a well known traditional French
recipe. It is a stew prepared with beef braised in red wine, traditionally red
Burgundy, and beef broth, generally flavoured with garlic, onions, carrots, a
bouquet garni, and garnished with pearl onions and mushrooms.
Traditionally the meat was larded with lardons, but modern
beef is sufficiently tender and well marbled that this very time-consuming
technique is rarely used anymore. However, bacon cut into small cubes is still
used to produce the initial cooking fat and added to the dish at the end.
Beef bourguignon is one of many examples of peasant dishes
being slowly refined into haute cuisine. Most likely the particular method of
slowly simmering the beef in wine originated as a means of tenderizing cuts of
meat that would have been too tough to cook any other way. The slow cooking and
simmering in the wine tenderized the meat, while keeping the meat flavor in the
dish. Over time, the dish became a standard of French cuisine.
Preparing the dish begins with cutting bacon into lardons and
frying them in butter (in the southern regions of France, olive oil is often
used). The bacon is then removed, but the fat retained in the pan. Chopped
onions and carrots are then added and slowly cooked (not browned). At this
point, the meat is added, the heat raised, and the meat is browned. Following
the browning, the bacon is returned to the pan, and two to three tablespoons of
flour are sprinkled over the meat and vegetables. The pan is then shaken to coat
the meat and vegetables with the flour, and put into a very hot oven, for about
ten minutes, so as to bake the flour into a coating on the meat. At this point,
reduced wine and beef stock are added to the pot.
There is a common
misconception that only wine is used in the preparation. This may have been true
with stronger cuts of meat in the past. Today, with good quality beef, a mixture
should be used. The wine and broth are added in equal proportions until the
contents of the pan are covered. A tablespoon of tomato paste is then added and
stirred in, a clove of garlic is pressed into the pan, and a bouquet garni is
put into the contents. This is then returned to the oven, with the heat reduced
to medium, and cooked for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
While the beef is cooking, the onions and mushrooms are prepared. The onions,
which should be small pearl onions, are peeled, and put in a pan with hot butter
to be browned slightly. Beef broth is then added and the onions are braised
until completely cooked and well caramelized. Little moisture should remain, but
if some does, it should be drained off. The mushrooms should be sautéed just
minutes before the beef is done (the beef can even hold while the sautéing is
completed). The onions and mushrooms are then added to the beef, and the dish is
served in the same casserole in which it was cooked. For a thicker gravy, remove
the beef and reduce the braising liquid before adding the onions and mushrooms.
If using a roast of beef (chuck steak is an excellent cut for this recipe)
instead of cubed stewing beef, it should be sliced.