Looking for something celebratory?
This is our take on the iconic French dish, Boeuf Bourguignon, popularized in America by Julia Child. Less of a stew and more of an event, classic beef bourguignon is beef stewed with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and spices which are then strained off, reduced, and finished with a butter-flour mixture to create a densely flavored, dark and silky sauce.
Yes the sauce is a bit fussy, but truly it is worth it. We made this for the family the other day and not a drop was left.
(You can of course skip all the sauce straining fussiness and prepare this as a traditional stew, but then it would just be a lovely stew, not the dish everyone expects.)
VIDEO! How to Make Beef Bourguignon
The Best Mushrooms for this Stew
We've included dried porcini mushrooms in this dish. They're called cepes in France, and are frequently used in French stews. Dried porcini are available in many supermarkets, but don't worry if you can't find them. For this they're optional and you'll still have a fabulous dish without them.
We are using shiitake mushrooms for the fresh mushrooms in this recipe, even though they are not traditionally used for this dish, because they are just so meaty and good. Feel free to use any fresh mushroom you'd like.
The Best Wine for Beef Bourguignon
As for the wine, if you can find it, use a pinot noir. It is the dominant wine used in Burgundy, France, and it is what gives this dish its name. Obviously you can use a real French Burgundy wine, but they tend to be far more expensive than a California Pinot Noir. Look for a bottle you'd happily drink.
Tip: Look for Frozen Pearled Onions
Finally, the thing that usually stops me from making beef bourguignon is the pearl onions. Yes, blanching and peeling them is simply a lot of work. However, salvation may be at hand. According to my sources you can get frozen pearl onions already blanched and peeled. Apparently Trader Joe's carries them. If you can't find them, the following instructions include steps for preparing the onions.
Julia Child's Classic Boeuf Bourguignon
Julia Child's classic French recipe for boeuf bourguignon, which you can view here, is for beef and vegetables braised in wine and beef stock and served with a sauce made from the cooking liquid. It is a rich and nuanced dish and one of the hallmarks of French cooking.
The name "boeuf bouguignon" means "beef Burgundy," Burgundy being the region in France where this dish originates.
This recipe takes Julia Child's original and adds a few upgrades, like the use of flavorful porcini mushrooms and some brandy. We also use salt pork instead of bacon; French bacon isn't smoked and Julia Child directs cooks to simmer American bacon to remove its smoky flavor. Using unsmoked salt pork allows you to skip this step.
What is Salt Pork?
Salt pork is pork belly or fat that has been cured in salt, which preserves it. Unlike bacon, salt pork isn't smoked, which is why we use it for this recipe. (Smoky flavor isn't traditional for beef bourguignon.)
Look for salt pork among the other pork products in the meat section at the grocery store, or ask your butcher if you can't find it. There's no need to soak or otherwise remove the salt before cooking, but be sparing with any additional salt you add to the stew since the salt pork is indeed salty!
If you have trouble finding salt pork, you can substitute thick-cut bacon. Simmer the bacon for about eight minutes in water to remove its smoky flavor.
The Best Beef for Beef Bourguignon
Use boneless beef chuck roast for this recipe. This cut is from the shoulder of the cow and has both a good amount of fat and a good amount of connective tissue. This means that it will break down into tender, flavorful morsels as the stew cooks.
You can also substitute rump roast or bottom round, but these cuts have less fat and tend to be chewier after cooking. Stew meat would also be fine for beef bourguignon.
Thicken the Sauce with a "Beurre Manie"
A beurre manie is a fancy word for something that's actually pretty simple: a paste made from roughly equal parts softened butter and flour.
Whisked into a sauce like the one in this recipe, the butter slowly melts and releases the flour into the liquid. This prevents clumps from forming and also creates a silky, thickened sauce.
What to Serve with Beef Bourguignon
Storing and Freezing this Stew
Beef bourguignon is one of those recipes that gets better the day after you make it. It reheats beautifully and can be kept refrigerated for up to five days.
You can also freeze beef bourguignon for up to three months. Stir the meat and vegetables together with the sauce before freezing, or freeze them separately and combine after reheating.
More Hearty Winter Stews
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
- 6-8 ounces salt pork, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 4 pounds trimmed beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes, patted dry with paper towels
- 10-12 shallots, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 2 large carrots, peeled -- 1 chopped, the other cut into 2-inch chunks
- 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup brandy, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 bottle Pinot Noir, or other red wine
- 1 cup low-sodium beef stock, more as needed
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 4 whole cloves
- 24 pearl onions, fresh or frozen
- 1 pound fresh shiitake, cremini, or button mushrooms
- For the beurre manie:
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
Rehydrate dried porcini mushrooms
If you are using the dried porcini mushrooms, pour 1 cup of boiling water over the them and allow them to rehydrate for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and chop coarsely. Pour the soaking water through a paper towel (to remove any dirt or debris) into a bowl and set aside.
Cook the salt pork
In a large sauté pan, pour enough water to cover the bottom by about 1/8 inch. Over medium heat, cook the salt pork in the pan until the water evaporates, stirring occasionally.
Once the water is gone, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook the salt pork until much of the fat has rendered out of it. Add a tablespoon of butter and continue to cook the salt pork until the pieces are browned and crispy.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the salt pork pieces to a large Dutch oven or other large, thick-bottomed, lidded pot.
Sear the beef
Increase the heat to medium-high. Working in batches so that you do not crowd the pan, sear the beef.
Leave space around each piece of sizzling meat to ensure that it browns and does not steam. Don't move the pieces of beef in the pan until they get a good sear, then turn them so they can get browned on another side.
Take your time. This will take 15-25 minutes, depending on how large a sauté pan you have.
Once browned, remove the beef from the sauté pan and place in the Dutch oven with the salt pork.
Cook the the vegetables for the stew
When all the beef has browned and removed from the pan, add the shallots, the one chopped carrot, and the chopped porcini mushrooms if using.
Stir in the pot to remove any browned, stuck-on bits in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and the tomato paste. Cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add brandy and mushroom soaking water
Add the brandy and stir to combine. Boil down by half, then add the strained mushroom soaking water (if using).
Scrape any remaining browned bits off the bottom of the sauté pan and pour the contents of the pan into the Dutch oven.
To the Dutch oven, add the bottle of wine and enough beef stock to almost cover the beef. The beef pieces should be barely poking up out of the liquid. Add the parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and cloves. Cover, bring to a bare simmer, and cook for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, add the second carrot (peeled and cut into chunks of 2 inches). Continue cooking for another hour, or until the beef is tender.
Prep the mushrooms and onions
While the stew is cooking, trim the tough stems off the shiitake, cremini, or button mushrooms and slice into 2-3 large pieces; small mushrooms leave whole.
To prepare the pearl onions (if needed), boil them in their skins for 4-5 minutes. Drain and submerge in a bowl of ice water. Slice the tips and root ends off the onions and slip off the outer skins. (If using frozen onions that are already blanched and peeled, allow to thaw before sautéing.)
Start on the sauce
When the beef is tender, use tongs to remove all the beef and the chunks of carrots; set aside in a bowl. Strain the contents of the Dutch oven through a fine-meshed sieve set over a medium pot. This liquid will be the sauce.
Boil the sauce down, tasting frequently. If it begins to taste too salty, turn off the heat. Otherwise, boil down until you have about 3 cups. Turn off the heat.
Cook mushrooms and onions
Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add the mushrooms. Dry sauté the mushrooms over high heat, shaking the pan and stirring often, until they release their water, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the pearl onions and 3 tablespoons butter and toss to combine. Sprinkle salt over the onions and mushrooms. Sauté until the onions begin to brown. Remove from heat.
Finish the sauce
Return the sauce to medium heat and whisk in a third of the beurre manie paste. Wait for it to incorporate into the sauce, then add another third of the beurre manie, and so on. Do not let this boil, but allow it to simmer very gently for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of brandy. Taste for salt and add some if needed.
To serve, coat the beef, carrots, mushrooms, and pearl onions with the sauce and serve with potatoes, egg noodles, or lots of crusty bread.