French slow-cooked beef in wine
Our chef adapts a classic from Julia Child.
Yes, of course I took the recipe for beef bourguignon from Julia Child’s "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
Julia Child would have OK’d the changes I made to her recipe, I think. Reading her autobiographical "My Life in France," a sense of her warmth and humanity rises from the pages like the scent of good cooking.
Other flavorful ingredients in my adaptation include soy sauce and dried mushrooms. More garlic than Julia called for, but then, I must have a constant high level of garlic in my bloodstream or I start feeling…pale. Or something.
- Use beef with some fat running through the flesh. I buy shoulder.
- The dish is not at all greasy, although you can certainly draw a couple of paper towels over the surface when it’s done to get rid of fat.
- I use an entire bottle of dry red wine as the cooking liquid. The classic recipe calls for veal stock, but since I cook so little beef, I don’t keep it around. Sometime, I might try chicken or turkey stock, but meantime, wine makes a rich, flavorful sauce.
- I don’t strain the sauce, although maybe I should. Nobody’s complained yet.
- Alright, so I usually leave out the classic fresh sautéed mushrooms and cooked whole small onions that go into the pan almost just before serving. But if you want to, cook 18-24 pearl onions in stock and sauté 1 pound fresh, thickly sliced mushrooms in olive oil. Add them to the pan before you garnish the stew.
What I can say is that everyone who eats this dish likes it. And after you’ve made it once, you’ll see how easy it is. Putting it together takes maybe half an hour, then the oven does all the work. It’s delicious re-heated, too.
- 2.2 lbs. beef, cut into large cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dried, sliced Porcini or other mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 450° F (220° C).
Pat the beef chunks with paper towels to dry surface moisture.
In a large, heavy pan, add the olive oil.
Sauté the beef chunks in the hot oil, a few at a time. Turn them over so that all sides brown. Remove the browned beef from the pan to a platter. I use tongs for this.
Sauté the onion and carrot in the same pan for about 5 minutes. Return the beef to the pan and sprinkle salt and pepper over everything. Mix with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the flour over all and mix again.
Put the uncovered pan in the oven for 5 minutes. Mix the meat and brown it again for another 5 minutes. Place the pan on the stovetop, over medium heat, and turn the oven down to 325° F (160° C).
Pour the wine into the beef and vegetables. Add tomato paste, garlic, soy sauce and dried mushrooms. Stir to dissolve the tomato paste. Simmer the stew for 5 minutes. Place the bay leaves and thyme on top of the beef and push them in a little with a spoon so that they flavor the cooking liquid.
Cover the beef and put it in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, then check to see if it’s fork-tender. Let it cook 1/2 hour longer if needed. When you judge that it’s ready, take the stew out of the oven and skim the fat off if liked. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Add optional onions and fresh mushrooms now.
Garnish the stew with a little parsley and serve with plain boiled potatoes, rice or noodles. It's mighty good.