If you asked a friend to list off some well-known French dishes I don’t think it would take long for them to mention Boeuf Bourguignon, and if they’re anything like Michael and I they’ll also take great pleasure in over-pronouncing it in their best secondary school accent… It’s a titan of their national repertoire and you can see why. It covers so many of the things you come to expect from French food – it’s rich, it’s packed with flavour and it takes quite a while to cook. The only thing it’s missing is a generous glug of double cream…
The recipe I’ve written here, like so many on my blog, is a combination of ideas taken from many different sources. If you look around you’ll find a lot of links to Julia Child’s version – especially as so many recipe sites are American – but although it reads as being authentic I can’t help but feel it’s a lot of faff. It may yield a better result that my recipe (I may never know) but to me that’s restaurant level cooking, not something I want to do at home. I’d rather pay someone to do that for me whilst I sit around a table among friends with a nice glass of wine. Well away from the stove!
At the other end of the spectrum there are also quite a few recipes that are almost too simple – they don’t feel like they give the flavours enough time to develop, let alone the meat enough time to become truly tender. To me this is a meal that you either make at the weekend or the night before you’re planning on eating it, rather than trying to turn it into a quick midweek meal from scratch.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a couple of shortcuts in here. For example, I used Michel Roux’s method of reducing the wine by half before going any further – something that seems obvious when you think about it, as it both enhances the flavour and takes away a lot of excess moisture. Rendering the bacon lardons and then sautéeing the vegetables in the resulting fat is also not seen in many recipes – I like it as it speeds things up and saves on a bit of washing up.
Even with that slightly quicker start the main cooking process remains low and slow – with a check every 30 minutes or so just to make sure that the sauce wasn’t over-reduced and exposing the meat as a result. This recipe doesn’t create a massive amount of excess sauce – it’s not a soup after all – but I did have to add a tiny bit more beef stock when I put in the vegetables during the last half hour, so do keep an eye on things.
Although this takes around 3 hours to cook I don’t think you should let that put you off as most of that time is spent unattended in the oven. All you need to do it get the first half hour right and it will pretty much look after itself from that point forward. You can also make it work around your own schedule too. I think that most slow cooked foods benefit from being made a day or two ahead of time, as the flavours continue to develop whilst they’re in the fridge.
When you’re ready to enjoy your masterpiece it would go well with mashed potatoes or even rice, but I went for boiled new potatoes and some green vegetables, as you can see below. The beef is rich, glossy and tender, I wanted it to be the star of the show.
- ½ Bottle Red Wine
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 100 g Bacon Lardons
- 150 g Carrots peeled and cut into batons
- 6 Small Shallots peeled
- 100 g Button Mushrooms
- 400 g Stewing Steak cut into large chunks
- 1 tbsp Plain Flour
- 35 ml Brandy
- 150 ml Good Quality Beef Stock
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 3 Sprigs Thyme
Pre-heat the oven to 140°C.
Pour the wine into a saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Allow it to bubble away for around 15 minutes until it's reduced by half.
Meanwhile, pour the oil into a large oven-proof casserole and place over a medium heat. Add the bacon lardons and fry for 5-10 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
Add the carrots to the pan and sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened. Remove with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Repeat with the shallots and then again with the mushrooms.
Sprinkle the flour onto a large plate, then toss the beef in it until the meat is lightly coated. Turn the heat up slightly and then brown the beef in the casserole, turning to ensure it's coloured on all sides. Depending on the size of your casserole you may need to do this in batches if necessary - you want the meat to brown, not steam.
When the beef has been browned, deglaze the pan with the brandy - use a wooden spoon to loosen any bits from the bottom of the pan and incorporate them into the sauce.
Add the wine into the pan followed by the beef, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Put the lid onto the casserole and place into the oven. Cook for 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes or so to make sure the sauce doesn't reduce by too much.
After 2 hours add the onions, carrots, mushrooms and bacon lardons to the pan, stir well and return to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
You can either serve it straight away or allow it cool and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just make sure it's heated through before serving.