Thursday, January 28, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon is one of the dishes French people would cook for a Sunday lunch. There is something about Sunday lunch in France. It's a traditional family meal cooked with fresh ingredients bought at the Farmers' market on Saturday or Sunday (and more recently at the supermarket). It's a little bit formal : people tend to get their China out of the closet; nice tablecloth and napkins; a nice comforting four-course meal that lasts at least one hour. Classic main dish include poulet grillé (roasted chicken),  gigot d'agneau (lamb leg), rôti de boeuf (roast beef), rôti de veau (veal roast), boeuf bourguignon, choucroute, sole meunière, etc... basically, any dish that deserves a little bit of preparation and cooking time.

At my parents' place we used to eat a lot of roasts beef until fish took over for healthier reasons. As my parents would say, the only person not really happy about our new healthier diet, was the butcher! And yet, my parents were not his best customers : there were people going to the butcher on Sunday morning and ordering meat for the whole week. More than we would be eating in a month!

We don't cook Sunday lunches in Philadelphia. If we have time, we'll cook some fish fillets with a side of rice and vegetables (eg: Tilapia with Ratatouille and rice). But most Sundays, we just have leftovers. I therefore tend to cook nicer dishes on Saturday, especially if we have friends over for dinner... or during the week depending on my schedule and laziness menus.
I was not planning on cooking Boeuf Bourguignon this week (we had some early December and we don't eat much beef) but my sister who lives is Asia is having a dinner party this Saturday. As we were exchanging ideas of a main course she could make considering her constraints (time, equipment, ingredients), she mentioned Boeuf Bourguignon. Since I had not posted a recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon yet, I told her that I was going to cook it for her so that she could get the recipe and the picture before Friday evening (that's Saturday in Asia).
Boeuf Bourguignon is one of my favorite comforting dish (together with the Pork Roast with Prunes and Potatoes). I have never liked meat that is chewy. I like it when it almost melts in the mouth : I'd rather have ground beef (even a steak tartare (raw ground beef)) than a piece of beef/meat that requires a lot of chewing...  As a child, I would love the dishes that would call for the melting-easy-to-chew meat, like Boeuf Bourguignon. I would call the meat "viande en batonnets" (meat like small sticks)... and would request it to my parents and grand-parents because I knew I would love it! This has not changed : I am still a meat-melting kind-of-girl and I was fortunate to find the right piece of meat to cook Boeuf Bourguignon in the US. I use "chuck cut", which has the other advantage of being very affordable compared to other parts of beef. I cook it with whatever red wine we have or the cheapest Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir (the dominant grapes in Burgundy afterall) I can find at the liquor store. For those of you who might be starting to think that it's not healthy to serve wine-based dish to children, I'll reply that French do it so don't ask the wine cooks for such a long time that all the alcohol content is gone by the time you are serving it. It's even hard to tell that it cooked in wine. There is a flavor but not any remaining drop of alcohol taste. If you are overly concerned, I'm sure some clever marketing people came up with alcohol-free wine (that's what we call grape juice, no?)
I serve Boeuf Bourguignon over pasta (egg noodles or fettuccine) while some other people would serve it over steamed potatoes. Your choice. One thing I like best about Boeuf Bourguignon is that, once on the stove, you can forget about it for hours (I like to cook it for 2 or 3 hours but does not cook the mushrooms at the last minute like Julia Child!!). Just come by the kitchen every now and then to stir it but that's it! Besides, it's a total success with my children who enjoy every fork/spoon of it.... and to top it all, it makes really great leftovers. Think about it : a Saturday dish that makes your Sunday lunch even nicer! Deux pour le prix d'un! Bon Appétit!
For 4 people
- Chuck cut Beef (2 pounds; more if you have a large enough Dutch Oven-like dish to make it), cut into cubes  (1-inch or 2.5cm)
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1/2 pound of pearl onions, preferably white but red would do fine as well
- 1/2 pound of mushrooms, cut into quarters
- 3 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
- a bottle of red wine (I used about 2/3 of mine)
- a bouquet garni (or bay leaves and fresh parsley)
- Fresh parsley (for decoration, more if you don't have a bouquet garni)
- Flour
- Dijon Mustard (optional)
- Olive Oil, salt, pepper

  • Roll the meat cubes into flour so as to slightly cover the meat
  • In a Dutch oven (or thick-bottom pot with lid), heat olive oil. Divide the meat in two or three batches, salt the meat and brown the meat cubes for 3-5 minutes. Repeat with each batch. Reserve the meat.
  • Cook the bacon pieces, stirring constantly because by now the bottom of your pot should look brown to you!!
  • Add the onions and carrots. Pour a little bit of wine, don't be afraid if it bubbles and déglace the pot with a wooden spatula/spoon (scratching the bottom of the pot: all the brown pieces should come out).
  • Add the meat, the bouquet garni, pepper and mushrooms.
  • Barely cover with red wine (ie, there should be just enough wine to cover the meat/veggies: you don't want them to swim in wine).
  • Add one tablespoon of Dijon Mustard and stir.
  • Cover and cook over low heat for at least 1.5 hours. 2-3 hours is best, stirring occasionally to make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom
  • Add fresh chopped parsley
  • Serve over steamed potatoes or pasta.
My Personal Comments:
  • Start by browning the meat; you can cut the veggies while you brown the meat.
  • If you don't have pearl onions, you can use regular onions (not sweet): don't slice them, just cut them into quarters/eigths.


  1. Castle BunniesJanuary 29, 2010

    I had this at Gaelle's house with her two lovely children and husband and it was absolutely the best boeuf bourguignon I've ever had. All balanced flavors and I would say that the pearl onions are part of what make the dish. So look for them! Yum.

  2. Your boeuf bourguignon looks absolutely fantastic! Reminds me of my B-day trip to burgundy last summer! Great to see a French mom in the US cook some really awesome french food! Especially cause I'm almost exactly the contrary: the wife of a truly american guy making american food in Paris!
    Love your blog!

  3. I just watched Julie & Julia this weekend and her recipe for this dish seems a bit complicated. So happy to find your recipe (and this blog)! Looks like next weekend's meal :) Thanks!

  4. I did it! Last saturday and it was very good and easy!

    I can not find pearl onions in Shanghai but it was ok and tasty with big white onions.

    Two people have already asked me for the recipe hehe!

    You have to post your recipe for the "entree" (salade verte avec tomates+ pignons + aneth +vinaigrette a la moutarde (of course)). It was great and easy to do.

    Thank you a lot for your help sister!


  5. Thanks for the receipe Gaëlle. It cooked for 2 1/2 hours and, not surprisingly, although I doubled the ingredients, there's nothing left... Everybody asked for a second serving... plus it was really fun to have my son help with peeling the vegetables beforehand. xxx SR

  6. I tried it with grape juice, since I didn't have any wine on hand (and probably never will). I would suggest if anyone else tries this that they use vinegar or lemon juice for part of the liquid. It was overly sweet BUT the meat part was fantastic!