This slow cooking Boeuf Bourguignon is well worth the time.
A manager’s special on a beef roast reminded me of the movie “Julie & Julia.”
The movie intertwines Julia Child’s life in France with that of Julie Powell, a New Yorker determined to cook every recipe in Child’s tome, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (Knopf, $40). This is a movie that can make you hungry — or inspire you to cook.
The film sparked particular interest in Child’s famous Boeuf Bourguignon recipe. After Meryl Streep’s recent Golden Globe win for her portrayal of Child, I was inspired to make this comforting dish again.
The most intimidating thing about this recipe is the instructions — it covers nearly three pages of the book and that’s a turn off for most cooks.
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This is certainly not a dish for weeknight cooking unless you’re able to start it early in the day. It’s best left for a leisurely Saturday or Sunday.
Once you get cooking, though, the aroma alone is worth the effort.
And, of course, the end result of fork-tender beef with mushrooms and onions in a silky hearty sauce is divine.
The key to making this dish a success is in the beef. Here are a few tips.
Buy what’s labeled “stew meat,” chuck roast or a nice sirloin (or whatever is on sale) and cut it yourself. This way the pieces of beef are all the same size and will cook evenly.
Make sure the pieces of meat are dry or they will not brown nicely. The original recipe calls for drying the meat with paper towels. Take the time to do this.
Work in batches when browning so the meat isn’t crowded in the pan.
Today’s version is not too far from the original. And you can make it in advance. Like many dishes, it’s even better the next day.
Makes 6 servings
4 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large carrot, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine, such as a Chianti
3 cups less sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
FOR SERVING (optional)
1 pound fresh mushrooms, cleaned and halved
1. In a sauce pan, bring 1 quart of water to a simmer. Add the diced bacon and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove, drain and dry the bacon.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a Dutch oven (or other ovenproof pot), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish and set aside. Reheat the fat in the pot over medium-high heat.
3. Dry the stewing beef using paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Working in batches, add the beef to the pot and brown it on all sides. Remove and set aside.
4. In the same pot, add the carrot and onion slices and brown. Pour out the fat.
5. Return the beef and bacon to the pot and toss in the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle in the flour and stir until browned. Stir in the wine and enough broth so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and set in lower third of preheated oven. Simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
6. While the beef is cooking, saute the mushrooms in butter until nicely browned and tender; set aside.
7. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the pot into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the pot and return the beef mixture to it. Distribute the mushrooms over the meat.
7. Skim fat off the sauce if needed. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 ½ cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of broth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Serve with roasted potatoes if desired.
Adapted from several Boeuf Bourguignon recipes and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.