Nearly Classic Boeuf Bourguignon

A white bowl filled with steaming boeuf bourguignon on mashed potatoes, a glass of red wine and bottle out of focus in the background

The fancy French version of beef stew gives a little ooh la la to wintertime comfort food.

By Erin Henderson

Today, boeuf Bourguignon enjoys a reputation of elegance and luxury, but really, it’s nothing more than a regional beef stew. Just like any long-simmered dish, it was the villager’s way to make tough cuts of meat edible, using local wine to help tenderize and flavour the beef.

Over the centuries, boeuf Bouguignon has soared from the lowly scraps repurposed by lower classes in the middle ages, to a  signature dish representing an entire nation. And of course, there is no shortage of recipes or thoughts on the “right” way to make a proper and authentic stew.

This is my version – a reasonable facsimile to the geographically accurate, and far more laborious recipe Julia Child introduced to America in the 60’s. I add in celery, which seemingly most do not, but I like the brightness it of it. I also throw in a bit of Worcestershire Sauce for the shaky, shaky and wakey, wakey it brings to liven up flavours. These ingredients, naturellement, are not Julia-approved, but I grow weary of rule abiders. I like a sense of confident whimsy in the kitchen and encourage you to follow your own intuition and taste buds.

Wine Pairing:

Traditionally, red Burgundy, or Pinot Noir, is the classic pairing. And if you opt for this archetypal match, you are most definitely going to enjoy success. Gamay, the second red grape of Burgundy, and native to Beaujolais, could also work quite nicely, as would a fruity Côte du Rhône.

I’ve also had good luck with Cabernet Franc dominated Bordeaux blends. It may seem a faux pas, but the savoury notes of tobacco leaf, black pepper and ripe red fruit in the wine, echo the flavours of the earthy stew beautifully.

Nearly Classic Boeuf Bourguignon

Serves: 6
Chef level: Easy

  • 2 lbs stewing beef, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Lots of freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, bacon fat, or duck fat
  • 250 g bacon or pancetta, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, finely cliced
  • ½ cup celery, finely sliced
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • ½ cup brandy or cognac
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups good quality beef stock
  • 2 cups fruity red wine, such as Côtes du Rhône
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 10 or so thyme sprigs, bundled in kitchen twine for easy removal
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups pearl onions, peeled
  • 4 cups button mushrooms, cleaned and halved if large
How You Make It:
  1. Heat the oven to 300°F
  2. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper on the raw beef cubes, and set aside allowing meat to come to room temperature. Meanwhile, prep your ingredients.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat, warm oil or fat. Add in bacon or pancetta and gently fry to soften but not crisp.
  4. Remove bacon from pot with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to drain.
  5. To the fat in the pot (there should be quite a bit thanks to the rendered fat of the bacon) add in the seasoned beef cubes, in batches, one layer at a time, and giving them plenty of space. Patience is required here, do not be tempted to throw all the meat into the pot, or flip the pieces too soon. You want the cubes to get a flavourful charred brown, not steamed to a weird beige-grey. This will probably take about 5 minutes per side.
  6. Remove each finished section to a bare plate, allowing for the juices to accumulate.
  7. When the beef is finished and removed from the pot, add in the onion, carrots, and celery. Stir to coat and gently cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add in the garlic stirring for 30 seconds to become fragrant.
  9. Add in the cognac, you can ignite it if you are feeling dramatic, but there’s no real need.
  10. Add in the tomato paste stirring to coat the vegetables, then sprinkle in the flour and stir, cooking for a minute to cook off the raw flour flavour.
  11. Pour in the beef stock and wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any cooked on bits. The liquid should cover nearly all the meat.
  12. Add back the bacon, the beef and accumulated juices, the bay leaf and thyme, and the Worcestershire sauce.
  13. Cover with a heavy lid, and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.
  14. In a large saute pan, melt butter and olive oil. Add mushrooms and onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened.
  15. Add the mushroom-onion mixture, and the liquid to the beef stew, stirring to combine well.
  16. Serve with mashed potatoes and green salad.

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