Boeuf Bourgignonne

I love rich, dark beef stews and one of the best is boeuf Bourguignonne made with red burgundy wine. I am not convinced the dish will be radically better for being made with a very expensive, top-drawer wine but you get what you pay for and a mellow wine will give mellow results. The best advise is to use a burgundy that you would be happy to drink. Whichever braising steak you go for, chose well-aged meat and slice or ask the butcher to trim the meat into big pieces, between 100g and 150g each, rather than kebab-size cubes. Large pieces of meat won’t dry out as they cook and end up juicy yet tender but still with the important chew factor.

Another distinctive feature of BB is painstakingly prepared little onions, and mushrooms, although I sometimes make it with chopped Spanish onions and thickly sliced flat mushrooms. The flavour is possibly even better but it didn’t look quite right because part of the pleasure of the dish is the contrast of big slabs of steak with the pile of small, wine-soaked mushrooms and onions. Smoked bacon also makes a powerful contribution to the flavours. Diced pancetta I find too assertive, preferring to slice smoked streaky bacon (my favourite is Denhay) myself. Some recipes call for the meat to be marinated for 24 hours before cooking. By treating the wine like stock and reducing it with diced vegetables and aromatic herbs before adding it to the floured and browned meat, this step could be eliminated if you are in a hurry. Cooking the stew in the oven draped with baking parchment skimming the food plus a tightly fitting lid traps all the juices while avoiding any burn spots that can happen with stews cooked on the hob. When I was writing Onions Without Tears it occurred to me the similarity between the preparations and ingredients for BB and Coq Au Vin. You can see what I mean if you look at the photos for both these; the BB recipe photo is acutally coq au vin and vice versa.

Boeuf Bourguignonne reheats perfectly, in the oven or over direct heat, and suits being served with a garnish of chopped parsley and plain boiled or steamed potatoes. I like carrots and peas too. As with all stews, it will taste even better if made one day then re-heated the next.

Serves 6
Prep: 40 min
Cook: 2 hours

1 onion
1 carrot
3 celery sticks
4 garlic cloves
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 bottle of Burgundy or 750ml dry red wine
½ (half) beef stock cube
1.75kg shoulder or blade, chuck or shin steak
3 tbsp seasoned flour for dusting
30 pickling onions or small shallots
30 baby button mushrooms
150g rindless smoked streaky bacon
40g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
350ml beef or chicken stock
2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
you will also need a large sheet of baking parchment

Peel and chop the onion. Scrape, trim and chop the carrot. Slice and rinse the celery. Crack the garlic with your fist and flake away the papery skin. Place the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and wine in a non-reactive pan. Bring slowly to the boil. Crumble the stock cube over the top, stirring to disperse. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until reduced by one third. Strain into a jug or bowl.

     Trim and slice the meat into big pieces weighing 100g-150g. Marinate the meat in the cooled wine for 24-48 hours hours, then drain, saving the marinade. Pat dry with kitchen paper and toss with the seasoned flour. To make peeling easier and reduce fumes, pour boiling water over the onions to immerse. Leave for 3-5 minutes. Drain and use a small, sharp knife to trim and peel.  Wipe the mushrooms clean. Dice the bacon or slice across the rashers into chunky strips. Melt half the butter in 1 tbsp olive oil in a spacious, heavy-bottomed, lidded pan that can accommodate the entire dish. Add the bacon, adjusting the heat so it cooks to a crisp. Scoop the bacon onto a plate, leaving as much oil behind as possible. Add the onions, reduce the heat and briefly brown all over. Transfer to the plate as before. Add the mushrooms and toss around in the pan, continuing until they turn from dry to damp looking. Tip onto the plate. Add the remaining butter and oil over a high heat. When the butter is bubbling, brown 3-4 pieces of meat at a time, letting it get really crusty before turning. Transfer to a plate as you complete the meat browning. Stir any leftover flour into the pan to brown, then add a cupful of the wine, scraping up all the bits stuck to the bottom. Return the meat and add the rest of the wine, stirring constantly to dislodge the flour on the meat and ensure smooth gravy, as you bring to the boil. Stir in the stock, bring to simmer then stir in the bacon and vegetables, return to simmer and remove from the heat.

Heat the oven to 140F/gas mark 1. Drape a piece of baking parchment over the pan, pressing down to touch the stew and hang over the edge. Position the lid and trim the paper.

     Cook in the middle of the oven for 2 hours. Discard the baking parchment and remove any excess fat from the surface with a few sheets of absorbent paper. Garnish with parsley and serve from the pan.