Julia would have called it “Bœuf Bourguignon” (pronounced like this) or perhaps even “Boeuf à la Bourguignonne”.
Such a fancy name for what we would, most likely, simply call “beef stew”. However, there are two delicious, distinct differences; bacon and wine. Bacon is sautéed until crisp, then removed from the pan to produce the initial cooking fat. The beef is seared in the bacon drippings till golden, veggies are added and a long slow braise with wine and stock melds all the flavors and tenderizes the beef. Traditionally, pearl onions and sautéed mushrooms are added towards the end of cooking time. Beef Bourguignon is generally served with mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or just a loaf of good, crusty bread.
With the temperatures way below normal across most of the US this past week, we were in the mood for something hearty and homey. I decided to take a few liberties with this classic and transform it into a Beef Bourguignon Soup. The ingredients are pretty much the same as in Julia’s recipe; bacon, beef, garlic, onions, carrots, wine, stock, thyme, bay leaf, butter and mushrooms. I didn’t add the pearl onions, but I did include several diced potatoes to make it a complete meal-in-a-bowl.
In order to transform this fabulous French “stew” into a “soup”, I simply diced the beef and veggies smaller and increased the amount of stock. I love the wonderful flavor that pesto adds to hearty soups like this, so I included of few tablespoons for another layer of flavor.
The results? We loved this Beef Bourguignon Soup, as did a few seasoned taste-testers (our son Nick and his wife, Lindsay). We had for dinner one chilly evening this week. I served it with a simple arugula salad and a loaf of crusty bread. It was a huge hit and even, Emery, their 10-month old baby girl, couldn’t stop eating it. I made a double batch and gave them a container to take home. We’ve enjoyed it all week and sadly, Scott and I will be finishing up the last of it tonight. I was sure that I”d have plenty to stash in the freezer, but I was quite wrong!
- 3-4 thick cut slices applewood smoked bacon approximately 4 ounces
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds stew beef meat cut in 1/2-inch dice
- 1 medium onion chopped in 1/4-inch dice
- 3 medium cloves garlic minced
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups good quality dry red wine a little more than ½ of a 750ml bottle
- 6 cups beef stock
- 4 medium fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 large bay leaf
- 4 tablespoons pesto prepared or homemade
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 stalks celery diced into ½-inch pieces
- 8 medium carrots peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces
- 2 medium potatoes peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cook bacon over medium low heat until golden brown and crisp, but not hard. Do not overcook. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove half of the bacon drippings and set aside.
Combine flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add beef and toss with your hands to coat.
In a large Dutch oven or heavy duty pot, heat bacon fat over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add ½ of the beef and spread out to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook, undisturbed until the beef is golden brown on the underside, about 5-7 minutes. With a large metal spatula, flip beef to uncooked side and cook until second side is golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a clean plate. Add the rest of the bacon fat to pot. Heat until hot, add remaining beef and repeat cooking process as directed above.
Once second batch of beef is browned, return first half of beef to pan. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add tomato paste and 1 of cup wine. Bring to a boil then lower heat to maintain a low simmer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally to loosen brown bits from bottom of pan. (I like to use a thin bladed metal spatula for this.) Simmer until most of the wine is absorbed, about 20 minutes then add the remainder of the wine and simmer until almost completely absorbed .
Add the beef stock, thyme, bay leaf, pesto and brown sugar and return to a boil. Reduce to a low constant simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour or until beef is tender. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
Add celery, carrots and potatoes, cover loosely and cook till tender, about 20-25 more minutes.
While vegetables are cooking, melt butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When butter is bubbly, add mushrooms and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Add mushrooms and bacon to soup and stir. If soup is too thick add a bit more stock or water. Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, if needed.Serve in bowls with warm crusty bread on the side.