Boeuf à la mode

Seldom does a big dinner work out so perfectly as did my luxurious Christmas diner (see the full menu here). Everything came together within 15 minutes of the estimated 5pm dinner time; a bit of a Christmas miracle given that there were 5 new recipes that I had never prepared before. The absolute star of the show was this french-style pot roast; Boeuf à la mode. It was just as delicious as a traditional French stew, but has the physical slices that I feel are an important element for a Christmas dinner; especially given that the menu already included onion soup. The flavors were deep and rich; but it was missing a slight something to brighten up the dish. 4-1/2 stars. A wonderfully unique Christmas dinner. A home run.

Beautifully beef roast with delicious sauce and vegetables

Beautifully beef roast with delicious sauce and vegetables

According to Chris Kimball, this recipe traditionally requires a 48-hour marinade, and boils pig and calf hooves to thicken the consistency of the sauce. This recipe breaks the chuck roast into two smaller roasts, so that some of the extra fat can be cut away. The two smaller roasts are then tied up to prevent them from disintegrating. And instead of hooves; unflavored powdered gelatin is an easy substitution.


  1. My roast had to come apart into 3 pieces; because of the natural fat lines. I folded and tied the roasts together to form two uniform roasts.
  2. The only frozen pearl onions I have found are made by Birds-eye; a 14.4 ounce bag. Do not confuse them for the smaller box, which includes a “cream sauce”.
  3. If you want to prepare the dish in advance, follow the recipe through step 14, skipping the step of softening and adding the gelatin. Place the meat back into the reduced sauce, allow it to cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To serve, slice the beef and arrange in a 13″x 9″ Pyrex baking dish. Bring the sauce up to a simmer and stir in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Pour the warm sauce over the meat, covering it with foil. Bake at 350-degree for 30 minutes until it’s warned through.
  4. Chris Kimball recommend serving with boiled potatoes, buttered noodles, or steamed rice. I served it with Pommes Anna.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $40.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1 boneless beef chuck (4-to-5 lbs)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bottle red wine (Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir)
10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 ounces thick cut bacon.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups frozen pearl onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water, plus 1/4 cup cold water to bloom gelatin
10 ounces white mushrooms
Table salt
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (powdered)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Pull apart the roast into 2 pieces and trim away fat. Season meat with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Set on wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, and allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. With 15 minutes to go, set a large sauce pan over medium-high burner and simmer the bottle of wine until it has reduced to 2 cups. Also tie your parsley sprigs and thyme sprigs together into a bundle using kitchen twine.
  3. Use paper towels to dry the beef and generously sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper. Use 3 to 4 pieces of kitchen twine around each roast to prevent it from falling apart during the long cooking time.
  4. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees.
  5. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4″-wide match-sticks. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner and cook bacon for 7 to 8 minutes until crispy. Remove bacon to a plate lines with paper-towels and reserve until Step 7.
  6. Empty and discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat; and return pot to medium-high burner. When the fat begins to smoke, brown the roasts on all four sides for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. While the beef browns, finely chop your onion. Remove beef to large plate and set aside.
  7. Turn down burner to medium, add chopped onions to pot and allow to soften for 2 to 4 minutes; using the moisture the onions give off to begin to de-glaze the pot. Add mined garlic, flour, and crispy bacon from Step 5. After 30 seconds add the reduced wine, 2 cups beef broth, the herb bundle and bay leaves. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add browned roasts (and any accumulated juices) back to the pot. Bring up to a simmer over high burner, then put a large piece of aluminum foil over the pot and cover with lid.
  9. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until a fork easily slips into the meat. Use tongs to turn beef every hour, and add carrots to the pot after 2 hours.
  10. About the time you add the carrots, Put a large skillet over medium-high burner. Add pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup water, Bring up to a boil, then cover and reduce burner to medium. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the onions are tender, then uncover and increase burner to medium-high and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the liquid completely evaporates.
  11. While the pearl onions cook, wipe your mushrooms clean, trim away and discard the stems. Cut small mushrooms in half, and large mushrooms into quarters. After liquid evaporates and mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Continue cooking for 8 to 12 minutes until everything becomes browned and glazed. As the beef is ready to come out of the pot (in step 13) use a little of the braising liquid to de-glaze the skillet.
  12. Separately, place 1/4 cup cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top to allow it to soften.
  13. Remove beef to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil. Allow braising liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then skim and fat off the surface. Fish out and discard herb bundle and bay leaves.
  14. Add in onion-mushroom and bring up to a simmer over medium-high burner. Reduce for 20 to 30 minutes until it measures 3-1/4 cups. Taste sauce and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Stir in softened gelatin.
  15. Remove and discard kitchen twice. Carve into 1/2″-thick slices, serve slices with vegetables along side, sprinkled with minced parsley and sauce poured on-top of meat.

2 Responses to Boeuf à la mode

  1. Tracey says:

    I am a true fan of pearl onions (creamed, browned in butter then braised in beef stock with a bit of sugar and wine, added to stews) and did use frozen ones until I discovered an easy prep: put unpeeled onions in boiling water for three minutes, then into cold water for three minutes. Cut off root end and top bit and squeeze out onions. Use in any recipe calling for frozen. Sometimes you will need to make a cut down the side of the onion to facilitate the process. Fresh ones are just delicious and the small amount of extra effort is well worth it!

    • Hi Tracy, for a long time I could only find fresh ones (usually labelled boiler onions). I also rolled them between my hands before cooking to remove most of the papery skin. But I agree, if I’m going to spend 6 hours making something, what’s an extra 15 minutes.


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