This beef stew (aka beef bourguinon) makes a lovely Saturday or Sunday evening dinner. The whole house fills with the smell of beef stew in red wine, and you can entertain yourself talking in a Julia Child-accent while you work through each of the steps. We had this dish in its homeland when we visited Burgundy (bourguinon = Burgundy), and we have to say, this recipe from Julia is just as good (better, really) than what we enjoyed in the French countryside.
This recipe will take four or five hours to make, but don’t be daunted. Each of the steps is laid out below, and when you break them down, they’re pretty easy. This recipe serves six to eight people.
Take three pounds of boneless beef stew meat and cut it into 1 1/2″ cubes. Pat it dry with paper towels because damp meat won’t brown. Lightly dust the meat with a little flour and toss to coat.
Add a shimmer (1/16″) of canola oil to a large flat-bottomed sautee pan set over medium-high heat. When very hot but not smoking, brown as many pieces of meat as will fit in one layer, turning frequently to brown all sides – about 3 to 5 minutes. As the pieces finish, toss the meat into a dutch oven (or large, oven-proof casserole dish with lid). Add oil to the sautee pan as needed and brown all of the meat.
Slice up two carrots and 1/2 yellow onion into rounds and slivers. Add a little more oil to the pan and add the vegetables, stirring as you cook over medium-high heat, and scraping up the brown bits. Once the carrots and onions are brown and cooked down, add them to the dutch oven also.
Keeping the heat going, add 1 cup of pinot noir (the vast majority of grapes grown in burngundy are pinot noirs) or burgundy wine and scrape up all the bits. Pour all of this into the dutch oven too. At this point, pour the rest of the bottle of wine into the dutch oven, too.
Also add 3 smashed, unpeeled garlic cloves, 2 cups tomatoes (1 whole unpeeled tomato and canned, drained Italian plum tomatoes), 1 bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme. Put the dutch oven on the stove top and bring to a simmer. Once at a simmer, taste and add salt if needed.
Put in an oven preheated to 325, cover and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. At 2 1/2 hours, start testing the meat to see if it’s falling apart at the touch of a fork. When it is, it’s done. Pull from the oven.
Prepare the Braised Pearl Onions Meanwhile, let’s prepare some little braised pearl onions. You can peel them slowly the old-school traditional way, or you can do it Julia Child’s way. You want to do it Julia’s way, don’t you? Okay, drop them in a pot of boiling water for exactly one minute. Then pull them out with a slotted spoon. Trim off each end and slip the outer layer off. Voila! Totally intact, peeled little pearl onions!
In a pan just big enough to hold them in one layer, saute the onions in a little oil over medium high heat. Once they’re a deep brown, caramely color, cover the onions halfway with chicken or beef broth. Season with salt and some sprigs of fresh thyme (if you have it). Cover and simmer slowly for 2t to 30 minutes, until the onions are tender but they still hold their shape. Once they’re done, set the onions and liquid aside. We’ll get back to them later.
Prepare the Mushrooms Take six cups of crimini mushrooms and quarter them. Heat a large sautee pan over medium-high heat with a pat of butter and a tablespoon olive oil. Add the mushrooms and toss to coat. Keep stirring, even though it seems kind of dry. The mushrooms will release their liquids. Then add in 1 chopped shallot. Keep stirring and cooking down for 15 more minutes, season with salt and pepper and few sprigs of thyme. Cover and set aside.
Make the Gravy Once you pull the pot out after 2 1/2 to 3 hours and the meat is starting to fall apart, get a medium saucepan and a colander that fits on the saucepan. Run the contents of the dutch oven thru the colander, so the liquid is separated from the meat chunks. Wash out the dutch oven and then gently tong out the meat chunks and put them in the dutch oven. Leave behind the onions, carrots, etc. Just pick up the meat chunks.
Then rub a spoon over the rest of the ingredients in the colander, liquifying the ingredients to get out as much flavor as possible.
Put the saucepan full of liquid over medium heat. Make a paste in a little bowl, using of 3 T flour and 3 T softened butter. Slowly add this paste to the liquid, whisking it with a whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Now add the mushroom mixture and the 24 pearl onions (with their sauce) to the meat pot dutch oven. Put this over medium heat on the stovetop, bringing to a simmer. Cook for five to ten minutes.
Serve with mashed potatoes and English peas for a classic dinner.
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