I’ll be one of the thousands to admit that the only reason I know that somebody like Julia Child has walked the face of this earth was because of Julie and Julia, a movie that I watched and enjoyed almost a year ago. Although Meryl Streep did steal Amy Adams’ thunder, Adams paints a picture of an endearing and relatable Julie Powell. Devoting a year cooking your way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking isn’t easy but Julie did persevere and the effects of her sojourn were life changing.
I’ll also be the first to admit that this is my first attempt at something remotely French. Boeuf Bourguignon is a big word and in my head, was an even bigger task to accomplish. It was a challenge that I gave to myself simply because making a pot of beef cooked in red wine held so much meaning. I told myself that if I could make something that Julia Child made, then I could cook anything. Yes, sometimes I do swim in delusions. But I held on to this ambition for a long time. A year to be exact. Christmas was the perfect excuse to finally scale Mt. Julia Child.
Although this dish has a lot of components and techniques involved, from an amateur’s standpoint: IT IS DOABLE.
I wanted to give myself breathing space while making this recipe. God knows the chaos that might have taken over if I tried to make everything on Christmas morning. So on Christmas Eve I started by frying the beef and the bacon. That gave me enough time to put everything together just in time for Christmas lunch the following day. I didn’t strangle myself because of stress so I must have done something right.
I’d like to believe that to create a bowl of Beef Bourguignon takes patience. The techniques are doable but for an amateur, might be overwhelming (hence the breathing space). Patience is key because the preparation is slightly meticulous. Maybe that’s just me screaming for this dish to work.
As opposed to how I described the preparation as complicated, sinking your teeth into the soft beef slathered with thick wine sauce is very uncomplicated. It tasted amazing, and everything just makes perfect sense. The beef was fork tender and slightly smoky. The sauce had a distinct bold taste of wine, but slightly tempered by the different flavors and aromatics. The flavors did not try to upstage each other. Everything just melded together perfectly.
It was only this year that my love affair with cooking really began to simmer. But my love for food has always been there ever since I was young. In the same way that Boeuf Bourguignon is French, food has always been a part of me. Allowing my inner foodie to really grow using this platform has already been awesome. Allowing myself opportunities to grow as a foodie and food blogger has probably been one of the best gifts I (un)consciously gave myself.
This chance for me bask in Julia Child’s lingering shadow as robust as the Boeuf Bourguignon, even for a nanosecond…well, I have to give myself a pat on the back for that.
There’s nothing French about eating this with rice, but since it was a Filipino Christmas and this dish is as rustic as it gets, rice and Boeuf Bourguignon were perfect together.
Boeuf/Beef Bourguignon (serves 10 – 12)
- 200 grams bacon (half of a 400 gram pack), sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 lbs/2 kilograms beef cut into 2-inch cubes, patted dry with paper towels
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 large white onions, sliced
- 2 medium sized carrots, sliced
- 1 bottle (around 3 cups/750ml) of red wine (use a wine you would drink)
- 2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in 2 – 3 cups warm water
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 whole cloves
- 3 large cloves of smashed garlic
- Beurre manié: 3 Tbsp flour blended to a paste with 2 Tbsp butter
- 24 pearl onions (I used around 8 small shallots/red onions)
- Chicken stock (I used half a chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water)
- 3 cans button mushrooms (pieces and stems, 115 grams drained)
- Blanch the bacon to remove its smoky taste: Drop bacon slices 4 cups of cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and dry on paper towels.
- In a large frying pan, sauté the blanched bacon to brown slightly in a little oil; set them aside and add later to simmer with the beef, using the rendered fat in browning.
- Brown the chunks of beef on all sides in the bacon fat and olive oil, season with salt and pepper. You may want to do this in batches. Once done, put them into a large oven-safe covered casserole pan. Add in the bacon as well.
- If you want to use an oven to cook the beef, preheat it to 180 C/356 F.
- Remove all but a little fat from the frying pan, add the sliced vegetables and brown them, and add to the meat.
- Deglaze the pan used to fry the meat and vegetables by pouring wine into the pan and using a wooden spoon, scraping off the crusty pieces at the bottom. Most of the crusty pieces (and flavor) will mix with the wine.
- Pour it into the casserole along with enough stock to almost cover the meat.
- Stir in the tomatoes and add the bay leaf, thyme, cloves and garlic.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer slowly on the lowest heat possible, either on the stove or in a preheated 325°F oven, until the meat is tender, about 1 to 2 hours. (visual here)
- While the stew is cooking, prepare the onions: Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Slice the end tips off of the onions and peel the onions. Sauté onions in a single layer in a tablespoon or two of butter until lightly browned. Add chicken stock or water half way up the sides of the onions. Add a teaspoon of sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 minutes or until tender. The onions should absorb most of the water. If there is water remaining after cooking, drain the excess. Set aside.
- Prepare the mushrooms a few minutes before serving the stew. Sauté quartered mushrooms in a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil until browned and cooked through.
- When the stew meat has cooked sufficiently, remove all solids from the sauce (except the beef) by draining through a colander set over a saucepan. (visual here)
- Return the beef to the casserole.
- Then remove any visible fat from the strained liquid and boil it down to 3 cups.
- Remove from heat, whisk in the beurre manié, then simmer for 2 minutes as the sauce thickens lightly.
- Adjust the taste of the sauce to your preference by adding a dash or two of sugar, salt and pepper.
- Pour over the meat, folding in the onions and mushrooms.
- To serve, bring to a simmer, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce for several minutes until hot throughout. Serve immediately and enjoy!