I make Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon a few times a year, her 5-star recipe is here. However, I find myself making the same substitutions, time-after- time, so wanted to discuss the changes. First, I never make her recipe using the 3-pounds of beef called for in her recipe. I always buy a 5-to-5-1/2-pound roast. If I am going to expend such an effort; it is either for a larger group of friends or I want the leftovers to last me well into the week. Second, I never blanch my lardons; and usually just use thick-cut bacon. I simply cannot but “chunk bacon” but will sometimes use salt pork. And lastly, I have yielded to Chris Kimball’s approach of using frozen pearl onions. To me, they are not important enough to worry about peeling dozens of little boiler onions. But of any adjustments I make, this laziness has the biggest negative impact.
While I increased the liquids to try to compensate for the 5-1/2 pounds of beef; I was still lacking liquid. Next time I will try increasing the beef broth to 3-1/2 (I had used 3-cups today). I already updated the recipe below; which not-coincidentally means that I will use the full standard 32-ounce container of beef broth (while I always make my own chicken stock, I rarely make my own beef broth). Overall, this larger batch is not quite as good as Julia Child’s original recipe. Almost as good; 4-1/2 stars.
- Julia Child says to use a casserole pan, but I always use my 7-quart dutch oven.
- While not called for in the original recipe, I also wrap the lardons into cheese cloth before adding them back to the pot in Step 10. This saves me a huge effort in trying to pick out the lardons when discarding the spent carrots and onions.
- Be sure to choose and begin your side dish of boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles or rice; start boiling the water as you begin to braise the boiler onions.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess? High.
Started: 12:00 pm Ready: 6:00 pm.
You can see a version of Julia Child’s original recipe here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below. I separated the recipe into sections so that I wouldn’t have to scroll so much while preparing the recipe.
Making the Stew:
10-oz thick-sliced bacon
5 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2″ cubes
2 carrot, sliced into 1/2″ wheels.
2 onion, sliced into rings.
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 bottle red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
3-1/2 cups brown beef stock
2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves mashed garlic
1 teaspoon thyme
2 crumbled bay leaf
- Cut the bacon meat into lardons (sticks 1/4″ thick and 1-1/2″ long), and sauté lardons in a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner for 5 minutes until lightly browned and has rendered much of its fat. Remove bacon to a side dish with a slotted spoon, and wrap in single layer of cheese cloth (tied closed with kitchen twine).
- Preheat your oven to 450-degrees, and set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven.
- Cut beef into 2″ cubes then pat dry using paper towels; they will not brown if damp. Heat leftover bacon fat in Dutch oven until almost smoking. Add four or five beef cubes at a time. Sauté until nicely browned on all six sides, then remove and let rest in a large bowl. It will take 4 to 5 batches, between 8 to 10 minutes per batch. While the beef browns; prepare your carrots and onions.
- In the same fat, saute the sliced onions and carrots until slightly browned for about 5 minutes. Pour out any excess fat; of which I had none.
- Return the beef to the Dutch oven and toss with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- Evenly sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set Dutch oven uncovered in of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
- Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this will brown the flour and give the meat a light crust).
- Remove Dutch oven from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees.
- Stir in red wine, and 3-1/2 cups beef stock; which should barely submerge the meat.
- Add the 2 tablespoon tomato paste, 3 mashed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 crumbled bay leaf, and the wrapped bacon lardons (as well as the bacon rind if you have it). Bring up to a simmer on the stove-top.
- Cover pot and return to oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
Brown Braising the Onions:
1-1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
1+2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
1/4 cup of brandy
- About 1 hour before the meat is done, begin to heat your water for the accompaniment: potatoes, egg noodles or rice.
- About 30-minutes before the meat is done, begin preparing the onions and mushrooms. Assemble you herb bouquet, by adding 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon thyme in a small square of cheesecloth and tying with kitchen twine.
- Heat 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until bubbling in a skillet.
- Add boiler onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 6 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. They will not brown uniformly.
- Add 1/2-cup of beef stock, the herb bouquet, and a little salt and pepper (to taste).
- Cover and simmer slowly for 20 minutes; swirling occasionally; until the onions are very tender but still hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Discard the herb bouquet and set cooked onions aside.
- Wipe out skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat. Once the bubbling begins to subside add the quartered mushrooms. Toss and swirl pan for 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of brandy and flambe until flame subsides. Remove from burner and set aside.
- After 3 to 4 hours in the oven you beef should be very tender. Pour the contents of the pot into a sieve set over a large bowl. Empty into a fat separator (or use a wide, shallow spoon to skim fat off) and allow to settle for 5 minutes.
- Wipe out the Dutch oven and return the beef; empty the lardon packet, then distribute the cooked boiler onions and mushrooms on top. Discard the spent carrots and whatever else is left in your sieve.
- De-fat the sauce into a saucepan, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. You should have about 4 cups of sauce; about the consistency of heavy cream. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper according to taste.
- Pour the thickened sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
- Serve, arranging stew on a platter surrounded with boiled or mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or rice. You can also decorate with chopped parsley.