Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon

Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon

This recipe is adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck and is, hands-down, my favorite recipe for beef bourguignon.

Makes 6 servings

  • One 6-ounce chunk bacon 
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 3 pounds Carman Ranch lean stew beef, or chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes 
  • 1 carrot, sliced 
  • 1 onion, sliced 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 2 tablespoons flour 
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy) 
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups beef  (or chicken) stock 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste 
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed 
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme 
  • One crumbled bay leaf 
  • 18 to 24 small white onions, such as pearl
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter 
  • Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth) 
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed and quartered 

Bring 1-1/2 quarts water to a simmer over high heat. Cut the bacon into lardons, 1/4-inch thick by 1 1/2 inches long. Add the lardons to the water and simmer 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. 

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or flameproof casserole over moderate heat, add the lardons and cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to another container with a slotted spoon. 

Use paper towels to blot the beef, which won't brown if it is damp. Heat the bacon fat in the Dutch oven until it is almost smoking. Add the beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until deep golden brown on all sides. Add the browned meat to the lardons. 

Brown the carrot and onion in the same fat, then pour out any that remains before returning the browned beef and the bacon to the pan with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the contents of the pan with the flour and toss to evenly coat the beef.  Place the casserole, uncovered, in the middle position of the hot oven for 4 minutes. 

Remove the pan from the oven, toss the meat again and return to oven for another 4 minutes. The flour should brown slightly during this time, covering the meat with a light crust. Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F. 

Stir in the wine and 2 to 3 cups of stock, or enough so that the meat is barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs, and bring the contents of the pot to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover the pan an put it back in the lower third of oven. Watch the temperature and regulate the heat so that liquid simmers slowly for the next 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when it can be pierced easily with a fork.

Prepare the onions and mushrooms while the meat is braising.  Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons butter with 1-1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter and oil begin to bubble, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, tossing them occasionally so that they brown somewhat evenly.  Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste, and the herb bouquet, then cover the pan and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes, or  until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herb bouquet and set the onions aside. 

Wipe out  the pan, and heat the remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as the foaming subsides (indicating the butter is hot enough), add the mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to brown lightly.  Remove the pan from the heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. 
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. 

Skim the fat from the sauce in pan and simmer it for a minute or two while continuing to skim off any additional fat as it rises.  You should end up with about 2-1/2 cups of sauce, which will be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If it is too thin, boil the sauce down rapidly.  Taste carefully for seasoning before pouring the sauce over the contents of the casserole.  Bring the contents to a simmer over medium heat, cover the pan and simmer 3 to 5 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. 

Serve directly from the casserole, or arrange the meat and vegetables on a platter alongside potatoes, noodles or rice. Garnish generously with chopped parsley.

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