This French classic is not only crazy delicious with melt-in-your-mouth tender beef, it’s also an inexpensive, economical way to feed a crowd. Another plus is that all the work can be done in advance!
As much as I love my iPhone, it’s not very sophisticated. You might disagree with me, and I’d understand. After all, what would we do without our smart phones these days? They can sing lullabies to us at night and wake us early every morn (with music, birds tweeting, gongs, symbols, bells … you name it)! They capture “the moments” for us with pictures and videos, keep us in close communication with loved ones, serve as a flashlight when the power goes out or any time we need extra light. We also have the news, weather, latest movies, songs and styles right at our fingertips, any time of the day or night. I use mine as a timer, a reminder and white noise maker if I need a quick nap. So why in the world would I say “my iPhone’s not very sophisticated”? I mean really, grandma would roll over in her grave if she could comprehend even a fraction of what these little hand held devices can do, right?
Well, every now and then I realize my beloved little phone’s not quite as smart (and sophisticated) as I like to think it is. One of those times was yesterday. I texted our son Nick and his wife Lindsay using the speech to text option. Being a bit lazy, I prefer this easy method in lieu of typing everything out. I asked if they might be able to have dinner with us. It’s much easier, with two little ones, for us to go to their house than for them to come to ours, having to rush home to get the kiddies in bed. But, not wanting to put any extra work on Lindsay, I said in my text; “I could bring dinner. I’m working on Beef Bourguignon”. This is how it actually came out however, in the text, “I could bring dinner. I’m working on beef Borgen Jan”. Beef Borgen Jan? Have you been living under a rock, little smart phone? Haha, so much for iPhone sophistication when it comes to fancy French food, right?
You know what’s funny though? As sophisticated as Beef Bourguignon (bœuf à la Bourguignonne in French) has become, it actually originated in France as peasant fare. The cooking technique for Beef Bourguignon involves slowly simmering inexpensive cuts of meat in wine to tenderize. The beef the peasants had access to would have been far too tough to cook using other methods. How did this “poor man’s beef stew” evolve into haute cuisine and gain worldwide fame? Julia Child probably had something to do with it, with her classic recipe and description; “Certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.”
If you’ve ever looked at Julia’s recipe for Beef Bourguignon you, (like me) may have decided it’s too much trouble. I’m certain, her results are incredibly delicious, but the directions go on and on and on. Honestly, I don’t have the time for recipes like that at this point in my life. Maybe one day, but definitely not now.
So I decided to take the basics from the classic dish and simplify them a bit. It’s still not a 30 minute meal, but definitely something that can be easily made if you’re hanging around the house for a morning. There’s not a ton of hands-on work involved, but you do want to monitor this dish as it cooks. I love that the work can be done in advance, making this recipe perfect for a dinner party or family get-together, with no last minute fuss.
It’s also a very inexpensive way to feed a crowd. Scott picked up a large (4 pound) package of stew beef at Sam’s club for $13. The recipe will easily feed 8-10. That’s incredibly budget-friendly for a dinner-party-worthy meal.
You’ll want to pick up a nice quality, dry red wine for this Beef Bourguignon. Nice quality doesn’t necessary mean horribly expensive. You can easily buy a good bottle of wine for $10-12 dollars. Look for something that’s rated high with Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast or Wine and Spirits. Scott often shops for wine at Costco or Sam’s Club and finds some great buys, although most grocery stores these days have a good selection of wines.
Just a few other tips for this delicious dinner. Since the beef is slow simmered to achieve melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, be sure to use regular size carrots and cut them in fairly large pieces. With my first batch, I used the cute little baby carrots. By the time my beef was tender the carrots were just about mush. Another tip is in regards to the small pearl onions in the recipe. You can buy them fresh in the produce department, but honestly, they’re a pain in the neck to prep – “slice off the root ends, drop them in boiling water for a minute, drain and rinse with cold water, pinch the stem end of each…” Yikes, all that when you can buy a bag of them, peeled and ready to go, in the frozen veggie section of your local market!
The last tip I wanted to share is regarding the pot I use for making a dish like this. Although I serve it in the pretty red Dutch oven you see in the pictures, I actually like to use a different pot for the preparation. I hate making a big mess on my stovetop when searing meat, poultry, etc., so whenever possible, I use a large, deep stockpot, rather than a lower Dutch oven. It keeps most of the spatter contained in the pot, rather than all over my stove! My stockpot (see picture below) is made by KitchenAid and is part of a set that I’m thoroughly pleased with. It can also be purchased separately on the KitchenAid website. It goes from stovetop to oven beautifully and keeps it’s pretty finish through it all!
Plan about four hours from start to finish to prepare this Beef Bourguignon, with about one hour of hands-on time. You’ll be able to get all kinds of other things done while the oven does it’s magic on the stew meat. It’s totally worth the time invested. We all throughly loved it for dinner last night and, despite what my iPhone calls it, I wholeheartedly agree with Julia in calling it “The most delicious beef dish concocted by man.”! I think you will too!
P.S. Feel free to make this a day ahead of when you plan to serve it. It’s one of those dishes where the flavors just get better and better. Hold off on the peas till just before serving though, as they’ll lose their bright green hue if you add them too long before serving.
For your Pinning pleasure:
Make Ahead Beef Bourguignon
This super delicious, French classic is inexpensive and an economical way to feed a crowd. Even better, all the work can be done in advance!
- Yield: 8-10
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: French
- 4 slices applewood bacon, thick-cut
- 4 pounds. boneless beef stew meat, trimmed of excess fat
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 medium cloves garlic
- 2 cups burgundy or other good quality dry red wine*
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 4-inch sprig rosemary
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 pound carrots
- 1 pound. fresh mushrooms, sliced in half – I like crimini (baby portobello) mushrooms
- 1 12-ounce bag frozen pearl onions
- 1 10-ounce bag tiny frozen peas
- fresh thyme sprigs
- Pre heat oven to 325˚F. Cut bacon in half, lengthwise. Then cut into thin 1/4 inch slices.
- In a large Dutch oven or stock pot (see notes in post), cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat.
- While bacon is cooking, place beef in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to coat.
- Increase heat to high and wait a minute till fat is hot, but not smoking. Add half of the beef and cook until browned on all sides. Scoot the uncooked half of the beef over to one side of the bowl. When first batch is browned, transfer it back to the empty side of the bowl. Add second half of beef to the pan and brown. Once browned, return beef from bowl (first batch) to the pot, reduce heat to medium high and cook, uncovered till most of the liquid has evaporated. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add red wine, about 1/2 cup at a time and cook after each addition until most of the wine had evaporated. You want the pan to almost seem dry before adding more wine. Continue adding wine and cooking down until all the wine has been added and reduced. Stir occasionally while reducing wine.
- Add tomato paste and flour and stir well. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add beef broth, reserved bacon, carrots, bay leaves, rosemary sprig and thyme leaves. Stir well, then bring to a boil. Cover pot and place in oven and cook for 2 hours.
- Remove from oven and add mushrooms. Stir gently to combine. Return to oven for another half hour. At this point, remove from oven and check the beef. It should be very tender. If it’s still a bit tough, return to oven and check, every 15 minutes, until tender.
- Remove from oven and add pearl onions. Simmer, uncovered on stovetop over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- To finish, remove bay leaves and rosemary sprig. Add frozen peas, cover and turn off heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. If making ahead, don’t add peas until just before serving. To serve, warm over medium heat until hot, then add peas, cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Serve with mashed potatoes.
* You could also use Cabernet Sav, Cotes du Rhone or Pinot Noir. Also see note in post about wine.
** If making in advance, don’t add peas until just before serving. That way, they’ll keep their pretty, bright green color.