Beef Bourguignon…

I know, I know.  “Really? Beef bourguignon? Isn’t everyone making it since that Julia movie?” Hey now! I was making this before that came out because it’s just awesome.  What better way to utilize some of my grass fed beef than to make it into a great dinner?  Many people actually make beef bourguignon incorrectly, believe it or not.  They make it like a stew.  Well, that’s a stew, not bourguigon.  Traditionally (which is getting harder and harder to find these days) it involves chunks of meat and vegetables with the reduced sauce poured over it.

Look at how lean that chuck is! Fabulous, and it’s not lacking flavor or tenderness at all.  Grass fed beef does the culinary impossible, by making meat leaner and more tender.  Looks like this hunk of meat want’s to get browned.

Browning meat has become so ingrained in cooks that people just do it because Emeril does it.  Why do we brown the meat before adding to stews and such?  Turns out that browning is kind of like caramelization.  Denatured proteins on the meat surface combine with sugars and when these compounds interact, they create new compounds which give meat that “meatier” taste.  It only occurs from 300 degrees to 500 degrees F, which is why when we brown meat, we use a nice hot sizzling pan.  Since the extreme heat cooks the outside surface faster, the strongest meat flavor is on the surface.  Next time you’re curious, cut a steak open that was browned.  Lick the crusted surface, rinse with water and lick the center of the steak.  You’ll see what I mean by “meatier” flavor on the surface.  Or you can cook one steak on medium heat without a sizzle and one with browning to the same measure of doneness (like medium rare) and taste the difference.  This chemical reaction was discovered in the early 20th century by Louis-Camille Maillard (who won’t be winning any masculine name contests) and has become known as the Maillard reaction.

Whew!  All of that to explain why meat tastes good when you brown it?  Well, now you can impress people at dinners.  My ultimate food nerd moment has now passed and I can continue.

Beef bourguignon uses lardons, or bacon.  I didn’t have any so I used bacon fat I keep in a jar next to the stove.  It’s a handy thing to keep around for cooking collard greens or kale too.  Almost all vitamins in vegetables are fat soluble.  If you’re going to add some fat to vegetables, it might as well be bacon right?

Creminis, button, kings, maitakes, shiitakes are all mushrooms you can use here.  I used king trumpets because I like their creamy flavor, almost like butter.

I’ve added the meat back to the sauce and now it’s time to simmer.  Traditionally, (I say that over and over again because I strayed) you’d remove the meat after a while and further reduce the sauce into a thick meaty gravy and strain out the vegetables.  I like my vegetables and I didn’t put them in the recipe to throw them out, so I took an immersion blender to it instead and made a thick sauce by pulverizing anything that got in my way in the dutch oven.

Served with caramelized mushrooms and onions, this dish went great with garlic bread on ciabatta.

I made the dish using homemade beef stock.  I also received some bones from my beef quarter and I put them to good use.  Roasting them here brings out the bone and meat flavor which makes stock so valuable.  The marrow can also be added to the dish, or you can scarf it down like I did with one of the bones.  I realized that I don’t have a beef stock tutorial on here, which I will certainly have to add later.  Ratio, by Michael Ruhlman, is a great book for learning to do just that.  Check it out on my book page.

Beef Bourguignon

6 oz bacon (or 1.5 T grease if none)
4 T butter
4 lbs chuck cut into 2″ cubes
6 shallots
2 carrots
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 T tomato paste
1/2 c brandy
1 bottle wine (nice red)
2 c stock
1/2 c parsley
2 bay leaves
2 t dried thyme
4 cloves
1/2 large sweet onion
1 lb mushrooms
3:2 beurre manie (3 T flour with 2 T butter)

Cook bacon on medium heat until done and remove.  Increase heat to medium high and add 1 T butter.  Brown the beef, about 2 minutes per side.  Don’t crowd the pan or it won’t be hot enough to brown.  Do it in batches.  Add shallots, 1 carrot and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes. Add stock and wine to barely cover beef (if you don’t use the whole bottle, don’t sweat it, just drink it). Add parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and cloves.  (i kept bay leaf and cloves in a tea ball because I was going to pulse the rest up.  Simmer, covered 1 hour.

Add the second carrot and simmer another hour.  Remove all the beef and the tea ball and pulse the sauce until all vegetable chunks are gone.  Meanwhile, saute mushrooms and onions over medium high heat dry, then add 3 T butter.  Season with salt/pepper.

Whisk buerre manie into sauce and simmer 3 minutes.

To serve, add chunks of beef and vegetables to plate and pour sauce over.

*next up…Brazilian Fish stew…*


2 Responses

  1. […] vegetables goes a long way towards bringing out that caramelized flavor brought out by the Maillard Reaction. That foil pouch is some roasted garlic, yet another refrigerator staple made quickly and lasts a […]

  2. […] for #2 =  Pat them dry. This is important for the Maillard reaction to occur. Any excess moisture will cream steam between the scallop and the pan, not allowing the […]

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