I was pretty relieved when Timpano didn’t win last week’s poll, mainly because I thought it was the most work-intensive dish on the list.
Oh how I was wrong. The winner, beef burgundy, or boeuf bourguignon, is an intense dish. While it looks simple enough (beef, mushrooms, carrots, onions), it’s actually a 3 or 4 hour trek through making the most delicious sauce in the world.
I stupidly decided to make this on a week night and didn’t read through the whole recipe before I started (cocky). So for those of you who are impatient like me, let me give you the summary before you embark to make this bad boy:
1) It takes 3 or 4 hours. It’s not a great dish to make on a Tuesday, unless you are a crazy food blogger or someone who likes to eat at odd hours. A lot of this time is passive though.
2) It requires brandy. Don’t forget about the brandy!
3) The sauce, which is a pain in the ass to make, is the most delicious sauce you’ll ever have. Go figure.
1) Start by adding 1 Cup of water to a large skillet. Add your bacon or salt pork and cook on medium-high heat until the water evaporates and the bacon starts to brown, about 10-15 minutes.
2) Add 4 Tablespoons of butter to the pan and cook until the bacon is crispy. Remove bacon to a dutch oven or heavy pot.
3) Add beef cubes in batches to pan. Don't crowd the pan. Brown on all sides. It will probably take you 3-4 batches and 20-25 minutes total. Remove beef to dutch oven when done.
4) Add shallots, diced carrots, and garlic to pan where beef was browned. Scrape up as much brown bits as possible and cook for a minute or two. Then add tomato paste and continue to cook for another minute.
5) Deglaze pan with 1/2 Cup brandy. Use liquid to scrape up as many bits as possible. Add mixture to dutch oven.
6) Add wine, cloves, parsley, bay leaves, and enough beef stock to just cover the beef to the dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
7) Add carrot pieces (2 inches or so in length) to dutch oven and continue to cook for another hour or until carrots and beef are tender.
8) When ready, remove beef and carrots from dutch oven and set aside. Strain liquid and add liquid to a medium pot. Bring to a very slight simmer.
9) Mix 2 Tablespoons of butter with 3 Tablespoons of flour to form a paste. Stir 1/3 of the paste at a time into the sauce. The sauce should start to thicken immediately.
10) Stir in two tablespoons more of brandy for extra flavor and continue to lightly simmer sauce until it's silky smooth and thick.
11) In a large skillet, add mushrooms with a tiny drizzle of oil. Cook on medium heat until mushrooms lose their liquid, about 10 minutes. Add pearl onions and cook until they are slightly browned.
12) Serve beef, carrots, mushrooms, and onions with sauce. Serve with potatoes, egg noodles, and/or crusty bread.
Adapted from a Simply Recipes recipe.
Are you ready?
In general, this meal is just a braise. You brown the beef really well, then braise it for a few hours in wine and beef stock. Behind the scenes though there are some finicky things that go into flavoring a really intense sauce which is my view is what this dish is all about.
Browning the beef
Anytime you are braising something like this, you want to brown it really well which will develop good flavors.
To start, get your biggest skillet and fill it with about a cup of water along with the bacon. This seems weird I know, but cooking the bacon in some water will help the fat completely render out of the bacon. Put this over medium-high heat and cook it until the water evaporates and the fat is mostly rendered out.
Cook the bacon and evaporating all the water will take probably 15 minutes. Then add 4 Tablespoons of butter to the pan with the bacon. Continue to cook the bacon until it’s really crispy. Then remove it and add the bacon to a large heavy pot. A dutch oven works best.
This will leave you with a skillet filled with melted butter and bacon grease. To this add your beef cubes and let them brown nicely on all sides. Make sure to give the beef lots of room in the pan and don’t touch them while they cook.
You’ll have to do this in 3 or 4 batches and it’ll take probably 20-25 minutes which is time well spent.
Starting the sauce
And so our adventure with the sauce begins. Once all your beef is browned, move it to your dutch oven with the bacon and you’ll be left with one dirty pan.
Don’t think of it as a pan with burnt on crud. Think of it as a pan with potential.
To this messy pan, add the diced carrots, shallots, and garlic. Some people might say you need to be super-careful about your chopping here, but all this stuff gets strained out later anyway, so don’t freak out about it.
Stir this really well and the vegetables will start to pick up some of the brown bits from the pan. After this cooks for a minute or two, add the tomato paste and continue to stir.
Then for the magic. Add about 1/2 Cup of brandy to the pan and use the liquid to really scrape up all the brown bits.
The pan should be almost clean when you’re done. Who knew brandy was such a good cleaner?!
Scrape all this stuff from the pan into your dutch oven with the beef and bacon.
Starting the braise
Now we need to actually cook the beef. You’ll need these things which will give our finished sauce a lot of great flavor.
Add this stuff to your Dutch oven. Add just enough beef stock to barely cover the meat.
This is looking good.
Bring this to a simmer, cover it, and simmer for about an hour.
We’re not done yet.
Adding the carrots
Carrots are cooked along with the beef for the second half which makes them really soft and delicious. I actually added two carrots because I like carrots. Just peel them and cut them into 2-inch sticks. Then toss them into the mix.
Cover this again and cook it for another hour until the beef is really tender. It should be slowly simmering the whole time.
The Other Veggies
Assuming our sauce works out okay in the end it’s pretty much good on anything. You could dip your shoe in this stuff and charge $20 for it.
But it’s especially good on mushrooms and pearl onions. Chop up some mushrooms keeping them fairly large and get your pearl onions ready. You should be able to find frozen pearl onions without too much of a problem.
Once you’re about 10 minutes out from eating, throw the mushrooms in a skillet over medium-high heat with a small drizzle of oil and cook them until they release their liquid. Then add the pearl onions and cook until they are a light brown.
These are ready to serve.
Finishing the delicious sauce
Back to your big pot of braising beef. Once your beef is tender (it’s been cooking for two hours now), remove the beef and large carrots from the braising liquid. I used some tongs for this which made it easy to just yank out the stuff I want.
Then pour the rest of the liquid through a strainer to get out all the little stuff you don’t need. You should be left with a really rich liquid, probably about 4 cups of it. Pour this liquid into a medium pot and bring it to a slight simmer.
You don’t want it to boil, just simmer.
Now take two tablespoons of butter and mix it with three tablespoons of flour. Mix it really well and form a paste. This is called a Beurre manié which I think just means “awesome thick butter paste.”
Working with 1/3 of the paste at a time, add it to your sauce and stir it in well. The sauce will begin to thicken pretty much immediately.
After you add in all your paste, as a final touch, stir in another two Tablespoons Brandy. You’ll be left with this silky smooth and thick sauce that’s just out of this world.
For serving, I just piled my mushrooms, onions, carrots, and beef high on a platter and drizzled on the sauce, leaving some sauce to add after serving.
I served mine with some roasted buttered potatoes, but you could also serve it with egg noodles or just really crusty bread. Basically you want a starch to sop up as much of that sauce as possible. You worked hard for it after all.
No doubt this is an intense meal and there’s a lot easier way to make a beef stew, but seriously people.
It’s worth the work if you have the time.