Beef Bourguignon is simple beef stew cooked in a lot of wine
This is cheater beef bourguignon, but it is easy, boozy and delicious.
Classic beef bourguignon can be a little fussy. You need to simmer the bacon before your saute it; brown the beef twice, once in fat and then coat it in flour and brown it again; prepare the vegetables separately; peel the little onions and cut tiny x's in their bottoms; and finally separate and reduce the sauce. Don't get me wrong, this process results in a delicious meal. It's just time consuming. And you can get the same great flavor, with quite a bit less work.
This recipe is loosely based on a beef bourguignon recipe published in the May 1994 edition of Bon Appetit, with quite a bit of tweaking.
Pancetta instead of lardons
It is hard to find lardons (French bacon) in the U.S, but pancetta is a great substitute. You can also use a thick cut bacon.
Browning the meat
The one step you can't skimp on is proper browning of the meat. The key is to work in small batches and not to overcrowd the meat, or the meat will steam and become an ugly gray instead of brown and flavorful. Browning the meat (plus a lot of red wine) is what eventually creates the delicious sauce.
The bits of brown stuff that gets stuck to the bottom of the pot after browning the meat is called "fond" in french cooking, meaning "bottom." As long as you don't burn it, fond is really good stuff. Fond eventually gets deglazed and adds to the flavor of the sauce. Deglazed means you add liquid to the fond over high heat and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to break up the bits and incorporate them into a sauce.
Two bottles of wine
Yep, that's right. Two bottles. And the wine needs to be good enough to drink. French Burgundy, made from Pinot Noir grapes is what classic beef bourguignon is made with. A reasonably good Pinot Noir from any region will do.
Leeks instead of pearl onions
I use leeks instead of preparing the make-yourself-crazy little pearl onions. You can also use regular brown onions and just slice them up. Or you can buy frozen pearl onions.
Very large Dutch oven
You need a large Dutch oven to make beef bourguignon. These enameled cast-iron pots hold the heat well and keep the fond from scorching. My le Creuset is 9 quarts, but you could get away with a 7-quart. I know these pots are a huge investment, but they cook beautifully, can be used for so many things, and they last a lifetime. In fact, they are often handed down from one generation to the next. Lodge makes a lower priced alternative to Le Creuset. I have not cooked with one, but they receive excellent ratings.
No need to reduce the sauce
Cook the stew in the oven with the lid on for the first 90 minutes. Remove it for the second 90 minutes so the broth thickens and reduces on its own.
Make a day ahead
Beef bourguignon is a great entertaining dish because it is actually best made one day ahead of time. 24 hours of refrigeration help the flavors to meld and intensify. Beef bourguignon also freezes well and what a treat to keep in your freezer for a cozy last minute winter meal.
Beef bourguignon takes about 30 minutes of prep time, 40 minutes of active cooking time and 3 hours of slow-cooking in the oven.
Serve beef bourguignon with egg noodles or boiled potatoes.
Tip: See my post to learn how to peel garlic quickly.
- ½ pound pancetta, cut in ½" slices
- 4 pounds beef stew meat ( such as beef chuck) in 1½ to 2" chunks
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup flour, divided
- 2 - 3 T canola oil, as needed
- 6 leeks, cleaned and sliced with white parts and light green parts only
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into 1½ " pieces
- 1 head garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 cups beef broth, divided
- ½ cup brandy
- 2 bottles pinot noir
- 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ cup fresh thyme, chopped
- 4 t brown sugar
- 2 T tomato paste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Heat oven to 325. Chop your pancetta into ½" cubes. Saute in a dutch oven until crisp. Remove pancetta from the pot, leaving the rendered fat in the pot, and let drain on a paper towel. Set aside.
- Dry the beef cubes well, and season on all sides with salt and pepper. Put half the beef in a bowl and sprinkle with ¼ cup flour. Toss to coat well. Repeat with second half of beef and remaining ¼ cup of flour.
- Working in batches with plenty of room between the pieces of meat, brown the beef on all sides over medium-high heat. As meat browns, transfer to a bowl and set aside. The flour and fat will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan and form fond. This is good, just take care not to blacken it. Add a bit of canola oil as needed if you need more fat.
- Once meat is browned and has been transferred to the bowl, saute leeks and carrots in same pot for about 8 minutes, until they are soft and have begun to caramelize. As the vegetables cook, stir frequently, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. As the vegetables release some of their moisture, the fond will begin to loosen. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add vegetables to beef bowl and set aside.
- Turn the heat up to high and carefully add brandy or cognac to the pot. Vigorously scrape up the bits of fond from the bottom of the pot. Reduce the liquor to a few tablespoons. Add 1½ cups beef broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid to about half.
- Return the pancetta, meat and vegetables back to the pot, along with any juices that may have accumulated. Add the remaining 1½ cups broth, wine, mushrooms, herbs, sugar and tomato paste. Liquid should just cover meat and vegetables. Bring to a boil. Stir deeply, scraping the bottom and cover. Place in the hot oven and cook for an hour and a half with the lid. Remove the lid and stir. Return to the oven for another hour and a half, stirring and checking every 30 minutes. Dish is ready when beef is fork-tender and the liquid has reduced to a thick broth. Garnish with chopped parsley.