Happy Bastille Day! To help you find your inner francophile and celebrate their national day, here is my recipe for Beef Bourguignon, which is perhaps my favourite winter meal. A famous French dish of braised beef with red wine, bacon, onions and mushrooms, it is also possibly the first slow cook dish I ever learnt to make. This version is a combination of what I like, how my mum used to make it, and some tweaking from the Julia Child recipe. I keep it simple and serve it with buttered new potatoes and steamed green beans. The flavour in the beef is so warm and has such depth that you will not need anything more.
1kg gravy beef or chuck steak cut into 2cm dice
6 thick cut rashers of smoky bacon cut into lardons (sticks about 2cm x 1/2 cm). Trim and reserve the rind and any excess fat
1 large carrot cut into 1/2 cm dice
1 large stick celery cut into 1/2 cm dice
12 – 16 small brown onions
400gm small button mushrooms
2 cups dry red wine, I normally use cabernet sauvignon
2 cups beef stock
1 tblsp tomato paste
2 cloves crushed garlic
6 sprigs thyme
fresh bay leaf, scrunched up
1/4 cup plain flour
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
First thing to do is decide how you want to cook your onions. The quick way is to just peel them and add raw to the dish. Julia Child suggests you brown braise them. This takes about an hour but adds a wonderful flavour to the final dish, so if you have time give it a go. Despite being time consuming, it is very straightforward. Melt a tblsp butter with the same amount of olive oil in a skillet until it is bubbling. Add the onions and roll them around the pan for about 10 minutes until they are evenly brown. Add 1/2 cup of red wine or beef stock some sprigs of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf, cover and simmer on low for 40 – 50 minutes.
Sauté the bacon in a large casserole dish with the rind, excess fat and a little oil. Remove with a slotted spoon. In the same pan cook the carrot and celery over a medium heat until soft. Remove and add to the bacon. Still in the same pan, brown your meat in batches, adding a little bit of olive oil if needed. Be really careful not to try and hurry this stage and add too much at once, because the meat will end up stewing not browning.
Once all the meat is browned, drain out any excess oil left in the bottom of the casserole dish and return the cooked bacon, carrots and celery. Place the beef on top and sprinkle with the plain flour. Put the dish in the oven for five minutes. Remove and stir through so that the flour coats the beef pieces, then put back in the oven for another five minutes. This helps to thicken the sauce as it cooks. After you remove it the second time, turn the oven down to 170 degrees.
In a jug mix the wine, stock, tomato paste and garlic. Pour over the beef and stir through. Add the onions and mushrooms. If your mushrooms are largish, quarter them. If you have the cute little ones, then leave them whole. Finally add your herbs and check that the liquid barely covers the mixture. Put the lid on your casserole dish, pop it in the oven and forget about it for the next three hours. I usually cannot help myself and end up stirring it once an hour. This is just so I can get a sneaky taste and to check if the meat is tender. When finished you should be able to break up the beef with a fork alone.
If, like me, your sauce occasionally doesn’t reduce or thicken as much as you would like, do not despair. Ladle as much out as you can into a saucepan and reduce on the stove top. Do this before you season the final dish as you don’t want to make it too salty. When it is the consistency you are happy with, add it make to the main dish and stir carefully through.
That is it. Apart from decorating with a little fresh parsley to serve and pouring yourself a nice red wine to enjoy with it. If there is any leftover, it freezes really well or can keep in the fridge for a few days. The extra days will always make it taste better. Bon appetit!