It’s the flamed Cognac (not to mention the half bottle of red wine) that gives this savory dish it’s unique, caramelized flavor. When you light the Cognac, stand back! Can you see the horse head in the flames?
Deep in the heart of winter here in Mongolia, we find ourselves craving traditional cold-weather comfort foods. Beef Bourguignon (also known as Beef Burgundy) is a classic stew from France’s Burgundy region. As is true of many stews and chowders, this dish has its origins as peasant fare, but over time was refined into the not-overly-difficult crowd pleaser familiar today. Why not give it a try some cold winter’s night!
As a stew, ingredients can be substituted fairly freely. (The pearl onions this dish traditionally calls for are difficult to find where we live. Coarsely diced regular onions work fine.) It occurs to us that the addition of rutabaga, pumpkin, parsnips or hard squashes would add appropriate flavors to this dish. Also, remember the basic rule for cooking with wine: use one you’re happy to drink. A full-bodied, dry red is best.
The finished beef bourguignon is traditionally served on toast and is a great excuse (if you need one) to pop the cork on a favorite red wine. The better the toast, the better the entrée. See our method, below.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 oz thick-cut bacon, diced into small pieces
- 1 1/4 pounds beef cut into 1-inch cubes. Tri-tip or chuck work well, as do higher quality cuts.
- smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt)
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 lb carrots, sliced thick
- 1 lb onions, chopped coarse
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped medium coarse
- 1/4 cup Cognac
- 2 cups quality dry, full-bodied red wine such as Syrah, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Merlot or Pinot Noir or a blend of similar wines
- 1 cup beef broth – made from stock, canned or made from bullion
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 1 to 2 tbsp all-purpose flour or rice flour
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, stems removed, sliced into large chunks
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 C) and adjust rack to a low position.
- Dry the beef cubes with a paper towel and place them in a bowl. Add smoked sea salt and pepper and mix together. Set aside.
- In a large oven-safe pot or sautéing pan with high, straight sides, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook till edges just begin to crisp. Remove bacon to a plate, but reserve the oil and fat in the pan.
- Add beef to hot pan to sear. Do not overlap or crowd. Use tongs or a spatula to turn beef so that each side is browned. Remove seared beef to a plate.
- Add carrots and onions to the pan. Add additional olive oil, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sauté till onions are slightly browned and carrots are just tender – about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the Cognac and exercising due caution, light it with a match. This will burn off the alcohol and create a rich, caramelized flavor.
- Stir the tomato paste into the beef broth.
- Place the beef and bacon in the pan. Add wine and enough beef broth/tomato paste mixture to almost cover all the ingredients. Add the thyme and bring everything to a simmer.
- Cover the pan with a lid and place in oven for about an hour and 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat half the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and mix together thoroughly.
- Remove pan from oven. Place on stove, stir in the butter and flour mixture and bring to a simmer.
- In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in the remaining butter. Add them to the stew. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Taste for seasonings.
- Serve piping hot on toast (see below).
Pan-Fried Toast – Use any hearty, rustic bread sliced fairly thick.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to medium low heat. Mince two cloves of garlic (a fine cheese grater works well for this). Spread one side of bread with olive oil and a thin spread of minced garlic. Place bread garlic-side down in pan and fry, being careful not to let the garlic burn. When the garlic is golden brown, flip the bread and fry the other side. The finished bread should be beautifully browned and crisp on the outside.
This is awesome! : )
Thanks! And we still have our eyebrows! 🙂
Perhaps your recent evocative post about local hero Chinngis Khan led to the appearance of this ghostly horsehead? You are way too young to remember the introduction to American cuisine of Boeuf Bourguignon by Julia Child, but it was the height of sophistication in the 1950 -60’s to serve such a dish to our New England friends. Yum! Betsy’s Mom – Lexington, Mass
Thanks for a letter which touched off an interesting conversation between Barbra and me. When I was researching the history of this dish, I came across a reference to Julia Child who called sauté de boeuf à la Bourguignonne “certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” Her show, The French Chef first aired in 1963. I was only four, but I do distinctly remember my mother watching her shows in later years, and I would imagine that my mother and many in her circle – even in our small town in the hills of Pennsylvania – had her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You touch on a subject which fascinates us: we doubt many Americans our age and younger truly appreciate just how much the food scene has changed in America over the past several decades. It was only 1968 when Robert Mondavi marketed his first Fumé Blanc, the wine that essentially put Napa Valley on the map as an up-and-coming wine region. Prior to that – and in fact for years after – the selection of both foreign and domestic wine in America was quite limited – all the more so the further one got from New York City. And so it was with fresh fish, many fruits and vegetables, choices on restaurant menus, and even cookbooks. Thanks for reading, and as Julia Child used to concluded her shows, Bon Appetite!