Beef bourguignon is essentially a beef stew. There are dozens of recipes and everyone reckons theirs is the best. This one is the one I have developed over many years starting from Thomas Keller’s reimagining of the one from Julia Child. It is a two day process because of the time needed for marinating the meat. It is by no means a simple recipe but is one guaranteed to wow your family or guests as it looks spectacular and tastes the same.
For me the use of muslin to separate the meat from the vegetables is the key. It enables the production of a perfectly clean gravy without the hassle of trying to pick all the bits of vegetables from the meat.
If you are preparing it for a dinner party or similar, you can cook everything in advance as far as the final assembly, meaning you can finish it off on the day and have it on the table in half an hour.
If you were desperate for a veggie/vegan version you could probably make one using some of the pretty decent plant based burgers that are available along with some facon and a good vegetable stock.
Keller goes for short rib but I tend to favour Julia Child’s choice of chuck as it is easier to source. At a pinch you can use a pack of stewing steak from the supermarket but if you do, try and find the biggest chunks you can.
You’ll need about 200 gms per person and for this recipe we’re going to us 1 Kg to feed five. If you are cooking for more, simply multiply the quantities up.
Cut the meat into one to two inch chunks depending on your preference and set aside.
The Red Wine Reduction
The beef needs to be marinated overnight in a red wine reduction. What’s one of them?Well essentially, you don’t want to marinade the meat in raw wine. The alcohol in it will ruin the texture of the meat. Hence reducing it to evaporate off the alcohol first. The addition of the vegetables will further enhance the marinade.
A bottle of red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chianti or any well flavoured red wine. Supermarket own brands are fine for this.
2 medium carrots
2 medium onions
2 celery sticks
3 or 4 bay leaves
2 good sized sprigs of thyme.
Roughly chop the vegetables and sweat them in a little olive oil for five minutes on a medium high heat, stirring every minute, until the onions start to colour.
Add the bay leaves and thyme and fry for a further minute, stirring continuously.
Pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Reduce to a brisk simmer and cook until reduced by a half.
Strain the reduced liquid into a clean pan or measuring jug. Set aside the vegetables in a bowl and stick them in the fridge once they have cooled.
Combine the meat and the wine reduction in a bowl or a bag and put it into the fridge for at least eight hours, preferably more like sixteen.
Beef bourguignon is traditionally made with beef or veal stock. Veal stock is ideal but for most people, getting hold of veal bones for stock is a non starter. Personally I like to use one third beef combined with two thirds chicken stock which gives an approximation of the lightness of veal stock.
For stock recipes, see the myriad returned by your favourite search engine. Don’t use stock cubes as they are too salty and if you can’t be arsed to make some stock I guess you’re unlikely to be making this recipe anyway.
You will need:
A sheet of muslin large enough to hold the beef and some string or cotton to secure it so the meat doesn’t fall out during the braising stage.
A large frying pan
Your marinated beef
Plain flour and olive oil
600 ml of stock
The reserved vegetables
200 gm smoked streaky bacon, dry cured preferably.
200 gm peeled weight of shallots 100 gm mushrooms, baby chestnut ones are ideal but any firm ones will do.
A tablespoon or two of finely chopped flat leaf parsley.
A good sized casserole that is large enough to accommodate the meat, the reserved vegetables and the the stock, and will take direct heat.
A heat diffuser if you have one is useful
Beef bourguignon is usually served with bacon lardons, button mushrooms and shallots. I’ve often cooked this for people who don’t like mushrooms, shallots or both (I’ve not met a carnivore who doesn’t like bacon yet) so I have got into the habit of cooking the garnishes separately and adding them at the last minute.
Chop the mushrooms into suitable sized chunks, halves or quarters depending on their size. Chop the shallots into similar sized chunks or if they are very small leave them whole.
Cut the streaky bacon crosswise into strips about half a centimetre across. Fry on a medium heat until crispy. Remove from the pan on to kitchen paper and set aside.
The bacon should have released plenty of fat, if not add a little extra olive oil and add the mushrooms and shallots. Fry gently till cooked through and set aside.
Drain and dry the beef
Using a sieve, strain the marinade into the casserole and leave it for half an hour to drain, moving the meat around in the sieve every now and then to get as much marinade as you can to drain off.
Tip the meat onto paper towels and dry it as much as possible.
Take the reserved vegetables from the fridge an add to the casserole.
Frying the beef
Put the beef on a large plate or other suitable shallow container, spread it out, sprinkle with flour and toss it about to coat evenly.
Set out another large plate and spread the muslin out on it
Get the pan hot and add the olive oil to coat it well. It should be very hot but not smoking or burning
Fry the meat in small batches until well browned. Do not crowd the pan, you don’t want the meat to steam.
As each batch is finished transfer it to the muslin covered plate.
Tie up the beef loosely in the muslin making sure lumps can’t fall out. Place this bag on top of the vegetables and pour the stock over. It should just come up to the top of the muslin bag. If it doesn’t reach add some more water. Bring the casserole to the boil and immediately reduce the heat to the lowest simmer you can manage and put the lid on. If you have a heat diffuser, now is the time to deploy it.
Alternatively you can place it into an oven at 160 C (150 fan) / 325 F / gas mark 3.
The stew needs to cook for about two and a half hours.
Check that the beef is cooked. It should be soft but not completely falling apart.
Carefully lift the muslin bag from the casserole onto a deep plate or into a bowl Strain the gravy from the casserole into a clean saucepan squeezing out all the liquid you can. Discard the strained vegetables in the sieve as they have given up their flavour and we’ll be replacing them with fresh vegetables.
Reduce the gravy a little as needed. It should have the consistency of single cream. Remove the meat from the muslin and add to the saucepan along with an gravy that has seeped out (I give it a good wring out to get every last drop), submerge the chunks of beef in the gravy and cover it until ready to serve.
Finishing up and final assembly
You will need a selection of vegetables, a few carrots, some green beans, maybe some broad beans or garden peas. Whatever you fancy really. Cook them until just done.
Combine the gravy, freshly cooked vegetables and beef and add the mushrooms and shallots unless you intend to serve them on the side. Heat everything through until piping hot and serve sprinkled with the crispy bacon bits and chopped parsley, and accompanied with some carbs. Dauphinoise potatoes, steamed new potatoes, noodles or even chips all work well.