by Cat, March 2014 (photo, right, from Amazon (5))
Back in the 1970s when I was in my French period, I started collecting Le Creuset cookware (enameled cast-iron). With my French Oven came a Le Creuset cookbook that includes a recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. At that time, however, I was more into vegetarian food – mainly because that’s all I could afford – so it was years before I tried this recipe. And then it was to impress a new boyfriend who loved beef. He was impressed, and requested it often.
On a related note, I bought my Portland house in 1987, and installed a cast iron Dovre fireplace unit in the living room. This was solid cast iron (except for the glass in the door), and was made by the same factory that makes Le Creuset.
This recipe is adapted from the Le Creuset Cookbook, plus a few ideas from Fine Cooking.com (2), Tablespoon.com (Julia Child’s recipe (3)), and Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon (4). The Le Creuset cookbook recommends a 2 ½ quart round or oval Dutch or French oven (pictured left), but I find I get a better result with a shallower baking pan such as Le Creuset’s oval baker in photo above.
After several testings, I do not recommend using stew beef; the cooking mixture does not have enough moisture to tenderize the meat. Instead, use boneless chuck, cut into cubes.
I like to use part chopped onion, cooked with the meat, and part pearl onions, sautéed with the mushrooms in butter, then added to the cooked casserole when reheating. But if you don’t have pearl onions, just use all chopped onion cooked with the meat. You can also add other veggies like carrots, celery and even potatoes. See my May 2014 test which added carrots; I concluded I like it better without them.
Many recipes call for tomato paste (including Julia Child’s recipe), but I don’t use that – this dish predates the discovery of America, when tomatoes were brought to Europe. A puree of carrot would be more authentic. However, if you wish to use tomato paste, add 1 tsp for each pound of beef to the meat/onion/flour mixture before adding wine and stock.
I’m not sure why you chill the stew for 4 hours after cooking, and then reheat, but I’ve tried it without the chill, and it is not the same. And its even better if you chill overnight or longer, before reheating.
Ingredients & Equipment
- 3 lb boneless chuck steak
- 4 slices bacon
- 2 Tbsp brandy
- 4 medium carrots (optional)
- 2 onions; or 1 onion and 1 cup pearl onions
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 Tbsp unbleached white flour
- 1 ½ – 2 cups burgundy or other good red wine
- ½ cup rich homemade Beef Stock, or more as needed
- Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 – 4 Tbsp butter, divided
- ¼ lb white or cremini mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- Bouquet Garni & Flavorings
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp dried thyme or ½ Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp peppercorns (crushed or whole)
- 3 – 6 small slivers fresh orange peel (optional)
- Enameled cast iron baking dish (such as Le Cruset’s oval baker photo, above); oven-proof cast iron skillet is another option. Last choice would be a 2 ½ quart French or Dutch oven; I note you get the best result if all pieces of meat touch the bottom of the pan, for caramelization.
- cheesecloth bag (for bouquet garni)
- Prep: Trim all fat off the beef, then cut into 1″ cubes. If desired, marinate in the wine for several hours or overnight. Remove meat from wine, reserve wine, and pat meat dry with paper towels (if too wet, it will not brown).
- Cut bacon into tiny pieces; alternately, cut into lardons: first cut bacon crosswise into 1 ½” lengths, then cut those lengthwise into ¼” wide sticks.
- Chop onion (not needed if you use pearl onions unless you want a bit of both); finely chop the garlic and set both aside in a bowl.
- Optional carrots: Scrub all 4, then cut 2 into ⅛” thick slice and add to garlic and onions. Cut the other 2 optional carrots into ½” – ¾” rounds.
- Quarter the mushrooms and set aside with the carrots, and thawed pearl onions, if using.
- Prepare bouquet garni: Place ingredients in cheesecloth bag (including orange peel slivers, if using), then tie with a string.
- Cook: Preheat oven to 350° F.
- On stovetop, cook bacon pieces/lardons in French/Dutch oven, until all fat has rendered. Remove bacon pieces and reserve in a bowl. NOTE: if using a casserole dish that is not for stove top cooking, cook on stovetop in a cast iron skillet, then transfer to casserole when ready to put it in oven.
- Heat the bacon fat until almost smoking. Add cubed meat, a few pieces at a time to avoid crowding, and sauté until lightly browned. Transfer each batch to bowl of reserved bacon. Then add beef and bacon back to pot, along with any juices.
- Reduce heat to medium; add brandy and ignite. Stir in chopped onion, garlic, optional thinly sliced carrots, and flour until flour is taken up and browned, adding 1 – 2 Tbsp butter if needed. This adds a light crust of flour and juices to the cubes of meat.
- Season lightly with about ⅛ tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper.
- Add wine (or reserved wine from marinating the beef) and stock and bring to a simmer. Add bouquet garni in its bag; season pot with salt and pepper.
- Place in 350°F oven and cook for 1 ½ – 2 hours, checking to be sure it has not dried out, adding water as needed. If using stewing beef, it will need longer in the oven.
- When tender, remove from oven and cool on a rack. Transfer to refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours (48 hours or more improves flavor).
- To reheat: place again in preheated 350°F oven for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp butter in small skillet; sauté pearl onions (if using) and optional carrot chunks until lightly browned. Remove from skillet and add more butter if necessary. Sauté mushrooms until lightly browned. Then add onion and mushrooms to the casserole and garnish with parsley.
- Boeuf Bourguinon is often served with potatoes, or to be more authentic, mashed parsnips or cauliflower. Or serve with shaped pasta or egg noodles.
- A green salad and braised greens or green beans are nice accompaniments.
Testing updated version
4/14-19/14: Although I’ve made this many times in the past, I’m testing again because I updated recipe as I moved it from my old to my new site. Marinated ¾ lb stew beef overnight in red wine. Next day, proceeding as written for half-recipe (without carrots), using my Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot. Cooked meat in 3 batches; had to add some lard along the way. Did flambé, etc., then transferred to 350 oven without lid. Cooked between 2 and 3 hours (I lost track of time), but added more diluted stock twice. Meat nicely tender. Removed from oven, cooled, then transferred to fridge. While it was cooking, I thawed ½ cup frozen pearl onions, and cut ¼ lb large button mushrooms into 6 pieces each, and placed these in fridge with the meat (separate containers), intending to reheat the meat and add the onion/mushrooms the next day (4/16). But had to delay that a couple days. On 4/17, shrooms were getting dry so decided to sauté the onion first, and then the shrooms, then return them to fridge until 4/19. Reheated with a bit of added water in 350 oven about 25 minutes, then stirred in sautéed mushrooms and pearl onions with some chopped fresh parsley. Served with a steamed potato, seared green beans with garlic, and cooked beet. Result: This stew is so amazingly wonderful. It was hard to save the second serving for later. Its flavor and texture were not diminished by the long rest in the fridge. In years past, I served it with egg noodles, which I would still prefer; but since I’m still doing low-carb ketogenic diet, a small potato with butter is a better option right now.
5/9-11/14: Decided to try adding carrots. Most recipes, including Julia Child’s (3) cook the carrots with the onions and have them remain throughout the cooking time; they will get very soft, like a paste, and will add more flavor to the sauce. I will do this, but I also want whole carrots, cut into bite-size lengths. I bought ½ lb stew meat and ½ lb stir fry (in error), for ⅓ recipe (twice the amount as previous test). Made as instructed, including marinate overnight in red wine. Added 1 thinly-sliced carrot to onion/garlic/flour mix. Needed ½ cup beef stock plus the wine to barely cover the mix before putting into oven at 5:45 PM. The stew meat is not yet fork-tender at 7:45; continued to cook in oven and removed at 8:45; total 3 hours. Meat is almost fork tender, and will finish cooking during reheating. Meanwhile, I cut another carrot into ¾” lengths, sautéed with 8 pearl onions in a bit of butter; removed to covered bowl. Then sautéed mushrooms, and added them to the onion/carrots in covered bowl; into fridge until tomorrow, separately from stewed meat. Next day: reheated stew about 45 minutes with onion/carrot/mushrooms added.
Result: The stew meat never did get fork tender, and the sauce was not as rich this time. I think I should have used a pan with wider diameter this time, because I used twice as much meat; the meat did not get the nice browned crust from the flour because much of it never touched pan bottom. Also the previous testing benefited from resting several days in fridge before reheating – I would recommend at least 2-day rest (rather than 4 hours or overnight). I would prefer the carrots steamed and served separately.
- Le Creuset Cookbook
- Fine Cooking.com, Beef Bourguignon (finecooking.com/recipes/beef-bourguignon.aspx)
- Tablespoon.com, Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (tablespoon.com/recipes/julia-childs-beef-bourguignon/f7e0a6c5-710d-4c83-89a6-2a4936fec81a/)
- Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Phd.
- Amazon photo: amazon.com/Creuset-Enamel-Signature-Cerise-Cherry/dp/B0117T5U3O/