Thursday, December 13, 2012

Le plat principal: Beef Bourguignon

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When deciding what to prepare for the main course, Liz and I deliberated because French food is not something that either of us regularly prepares.  We ultimately agreed on Beef Bourguignon as a good first attempt because it wasn't incredibly complicated, and did not need many hours of preparation time (or so we thought . . . ).  We were also excited about this recipe because it meant that we'd get to try out Liz's new Dutch Oven.  Let's be honest, it does not take much to excite us in the kitchen! We adapted this recipe from Epicurious.

Thanks again to Jason Leavy for being our guest celebrity photographer!

For the beef bourguignon you will need:

8 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped
3 pounds well-trimmed boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (from 7-bone chuck roast)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 pounds boiling onions, peeled
3/4 pound large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
12 large garlic cloves, peeled (left whole)
3 cups canned beef broth
1/2 cup Cognac or brandy (we used the brandy from the french onion soup)
2 750-ml bottles red Burgundy wine
1 1/4 pounds mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped fresh thyme or 2 tablespoons dried
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste

First, saute the bacon in the dutch oven.  We used as much as we could fit in the bottom of the pan, which was about 2/3 of the package.  Once the bacon is cooked evenly on both sides, remove it from the pan and set aside.  

While the bacon was cooking, we prepared the beef by trimming it into small 1 1/2 inch cubes.  We then lightly rolled the beef in flour and browned it in three batches over high heat, about five minutes per batch, until it was brown on all sides. Once the beef was cooked, we transferred it to a large glass bowl to rest.  

Then in the same pot, add the carrots and onions and cook for about six minutes, adding the garlic in for the final minute.  Once the veggies are cooked, add them to the bowl containing the meat.


Next, add one cup of the broth and 1/2 cup of brandy to the pot, and reduce it to a glaze.  This should take about 8 minutes.  When reducing, be sure to scrape the pot so that any bits of meat that stuck to the bottom are incorporated.  Once the liquid has been reduced to a glaze, return the meat and veggies to the pot.  This was no small feat!  Be careful and have someone assist you with this step, or you may have a major mess on your hands!

Then, into the pot, add the two bottles of wine (we went with two inexpensive bottles of Pinot Noir since we couldn't find Burgundy at our grocery store), sliced mushrooms, thyme, 2 cups of broth, sugar, and the tomato paste.  The original recipe did not mention adding the bacon back to the mix, but we went ahead and crumbled it up and threw it in as well.  Bacon can do no harm, right?? 

Bring the entire mixture to a boil--this took about 10 minutes, as it was a lot of food and liquid--stirring occasionally.  Then cover the pot and place it directly into the oven.  We recommend using a baking sheet to support the pot on the oven rack.  Our arms were definitely sore from lifting this thing in and out of the oven!

Let the stew cook in the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Afterwards, remove the pot from oven and ladle off the majority of the liquid from the stew into a large saucepan.  There will be a thin layer of fat on top of the liquid - ensure that you also spoon it off and toss it.  Boil the liquid for about 40 minutes on the stove until it has reduced.  Your dutch oven should be set aside during this time, do not return it to the oven.  Complete this meal by pouring the reduced liquid back over the stew, and serve! Voilà!  Along with the braised fingerling potatoes (recipe to come tomorrow) this was a hearty and delicious meal.  In fact, we shared leftovers with a number of friends who all raved about it!  It may have been even better served the next day!

All in all, this meal was not incredibly complicated to prepare.  That being said, from start to finish, it probably took us four hours, which was far beyond our expectations.  That may or may not have been the result of not studying the recipe properly . . . lesson learned!  One thing we've definitely come to realize is that cooking takes time!  You should always budget in some extra time as compared to what the recipe may suggest.  Do any of our fellow cooks out there feel the same way?  Or, maybe we are just slowpokes in the kitchen! 


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