Sunday, November 4, 2012

Channel Your Inner Julia: Beef Bourguignon

It's time for another recipe in this month-long Autumn Pinspired Soup Recipe series! This is where I try some of the recipes that I've pinned to my Soups & Stews Pinterest board. This weekend, I was inspired by this pin (source: Epicurious) to channel my inner Julia Child and make her famous Beef Bourguignon. I've made some pretty good beef stews in my day, but Julia Child's recipe is like the Holy Grail of beef stews so I was really looking forward to trying it. And let me tell you, it is Delicious. Delectable. Divine!
julia child beef bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is a classic french beef stew with red wine, onions, and mushrooms, and it was the first dish Julia made on her TV series The French Chef. She was talented, entertaining, informative, and most of all delightfully real. If you haven't had a chance to watch Julia Child cook, you really should check out her beef bourguignon episode on YouTube. She was an original.

Normally when I try a recipe, I use it as more of a "guideline" - I rarely follow a recipe as written and usually edit it according to what I think will be even better or work with the ingredients I have on hand. But this recipe, I wanted to try it exactly as Julia intended, or as close to it as I could. Where I did make changes or suggestions, I made a note of that in the recipe below. I even measured everything, and I rarely do that. But for Julia, I did.

There are also two sub-recipes that this main recipe calls for, sauteed mushrooms and brown braised onions, and I've included the links for both of these Julia Child recipes in the ingredient list below as well above. Cooking these components separately and then combining them at the end is genius; it maintains a great flavor and texture of all the ingredients.

Although this is a time consuming dish, it's not difficult and much of it can be done ahead of time or in steps. The result of all your effort is a succulent, flavorful, incredibly tender stew that leaves you going back for more. My parents came over for dinner tonight and raved about it throughout the entire meal. That says a lot since I was raised by these two great cooks.

Thanks to Big Orange, my trusty hardworking cast iron pot, for another fantastic meal!
julia child beef bourguignon
Bon Appetit!

Beef Bourguignon
Slightly adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Printable version
Serves 6

6 oz. thick cut bacon (original recipe calls for chunk bacon on rind, but I couldn't find it)
1 T. olive or vegetable oil
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2 inch cubes (I used chuck roast; rump roast is another great choice)
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 T. flour (original recipe used 2; 3 gave it good body)
3 cups of a full bodied young red wine (such as Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux-St. Emilion, Burgundy, or Chianti)
2-3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon (I used homemade stock that I made a couple days ago using Julia Child's beef stock recipe, but I roasted the bones first at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until nicely browned. This makes a darker, richer broth)
1 T. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
18-24 small white onions, brown braised (see Julia's recipe here) - I couldn't find fresh small white onions so I used 1/2 bag of frozen pearl onions that I thawed and gently dried on a towel
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sauteed in butter (see Julia's recipe here) - I used a combination of crimini, shiitake, and white button mushrooms. Note that Julia's mushroom recipe is made with 1/2 lb. of mushrooms so double it for this stew
Fresh Italian parsley and/or fresh thyme for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Remove rind (if you have one) and cut bacon into lardons (strips about 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer bacon (and rind if you've got it) for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry. (Note: I've never simmered my bacon before in water before sauteing and I don't really know why we do that extra step, but Julia said to so I did. Does anyone know why? My guess is it helps get rid of some fat)

In a 9-10 inch ovenproof casserole pot/dutch oven, saute bacon in 1 T. oil over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove bacon to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Turn up to medium-high/high and heat the remaining oil to almost smoking.

Dry the beef in paper towels. It will not brown if it is damp. Saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables for 4-5 minutes. Pour out any excess fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the pot and toss with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set the pot in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 more minutes. This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust. Remove the pot from the oven and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

To the beef mixture, stir in the wine and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf (and bacon rind if you had that). Bring to simmer on top of stove. Cover the pot and set in lower third of preheated oven. Simmer slowly in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a forks pierces it easily and is tender. You may need to cook longer depending on the cut of meat you use.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the mushrooms using this recipe, like so:
julia child beef bourguignon mushrooms

...and the brown-braised onions using this recipe, so they look somewhat like these sweet little bits:
julia child beef bourguignon

Set them both aside until needed.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole pot into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat. Discard/compost the remaining spent vegetables in the sieve.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for 1-2 minutes, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down to reduce. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables.

To serve immediately, simmer the meat and vegetables together with the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Serve with potatoes, noodles, or rice and garnish with parsley and/or fresh thyme.

If serving later, cool down, cover and refrigerate. About 15-20 minutes before serving, bring pot to a simmer, cover, and simmer slowly for 10 minutes or until heated through. Garnish with parsley and/or fresh thyme.

"Learn how to cook -- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun." ~ Julia Child


  1. This looks absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing, I pinned it on pinterest!

  2. This looks awesome! I am going to make it this weekend! Thank you for a great tutorial. Meghan

    1. Thanks Meghan, I hope you let me know how it turned out. I think the key to this dish is to brown everything well each step along the way. It brings out so much flavor! Sharon

  3. I believe Julia Child used smoked bacon. So, blanching the bacon would have removed some of that smoke flavor that she may have thought was too overpowering for the dish. Thanks for sharing. You have great photos; beautiful caramelization on those mushrooms and onions - looks delish!

    1. Oh that makes sense, thank you so much! And thanks for stopping by and commenting. Sharon

  4. This looks amazing. I don't think I have ever made it. I will most definitely have to try soon. I can almost smell it.

  5. Yummy, I love bacon. Although, I think i would leave out the mushrooms!

    Thanks so much for linking up and linking back last week at the Humble Brag! Hope to see you back tomorrow to link up more great projects and see if you were featured. Don’t forget, we will be giving away more free ad space!

  6. Oh can almost smell this, your pics look so good!! Loved Julia... But it just seems a waste to throw out the lovely carrots :( I know they are just supposed to flavor the stew, but I would eat them too!

    1. Yes, I can understand that! Thanks for stopping by. :) Sharon


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