What does a hearty French dish have to do with "Downton Abbey"? Pamela Foster on her blog "Downton Abbey Cooks" selected beef bourguignon as a nod to World War I and the battles fought "through the southern Belgian province of West Flanders and regions of northern and eastern France." The war features large in Downton Abbey's first two seasons as members of its household head off to battle and the estate is transformed into a military hospital. In this version, Stir It Up! blogger Amy Deline of The Gourmand Mom offers a take on Julia Child's classic dish.
Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef (cut into approximately 2″ chunks)
1 carrot, sliced (or 10-15 baby carrots, coarse chopped)
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine
2 – 3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf (optional)
For the brown-braised onions (Oignons Glacés à Brun)
1/2 bag frozen white pearl onions, defrosted and patted dry
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock or beef broth
Salt and pepper
For the sautéed mushrooms (Champignons Sautés au Beurre)
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Gather and prepare your ingredients prior to cooking. Chop the bacon, chop the beef, chop the veggies, smash the garlic… Preparing your mise en place will help things go smoothly once you’ve fired up the stove.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Arrange the beef chunks in a single layer on a tray lined with paper towels. Use additional paper towels to thoroughly pat the beef dry.
*Damp beef will not brown properly.
*Julia recommends chuck beef for stew meat. I usually use the precut ‘stew beef’ from my grocery store. It saves me a few minutes of prep time, which is invaluable when you’re cooking while three young boys threaten to tear the house (or each other) apart.
In a large dutch oven pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for several minutes, until the bacon is browned and has released most of its fat. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan.
*Julia’s recipe calls for a 6 ounce piece of chunk bacon, cut into lardons. Regular sliced bacon will work just fine!
*Any large, stove and oven-safe pan with a tight fitting lid will do the job. I use a 9-quart Le Creuset enameled cast iron french oven pan.
Over medium/medium-high heat, brown the beef in the bacon fat for a minute or two on each side. Do not overcrowd the pan. The beef should quickly develop a nice caramelized brown on the surface. Turn the beef to brown on all sides, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat until all of the beef has been browned.
*You do not want to steam or boil the beef. If your beef is not browning properly, it is either due to the heat not being high enough, the pan being over-crowded (which lowers the heat of the bacon fat), or the beef being too damp. Try adjusting each of these conditions.
Once all of the beef has been browned, add the carrots and onions to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until they develop a golden brown color. Then, carefully pour out the excess bacon fat, leaving the veggies in the pan.
Add the beef and bacon back into the pan. Toss with salt and pepper. Then, sprinkle the flour over the mixture and toss again. Place the pan, uncovered, on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the mixture, then cook for 4 more minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees F.
Add the wine*, beef stock, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme. Add just enough beef stock to barely cover the beef.
*Julia recommends Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy. I use whatever dry red I have on hand, usually Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir.
Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then, cover the pan, and place it in the oven. Cook, covered, for about 3 hours. Adjust the temperature slightly, if necessary, so that the liquid maintains a gentle simmer throughout the cooking time.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
For the onions:
Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan to allow the onions to roll around in the pan and brown on all sides. Then, add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer slowly for about 15-20 minutes. Check the pan towards the end of the cooking time. Most of the liquid should have evaporated and formed a brown glaze around the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
*Julia’s recipe calls for fresh, peeled white onions, about 1″ in diameter. Since my grocery store does not regularly carry the small onions, I use about 1/2 a bag of frozen white pearl onions. The added convenience is that they’re already peeled! Just be sure to defrost completely and pat dry before sauteeing. Fresh onions will require longer cooking time, about 40-50 minutes.
For the mushrooms:
Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
*The mushrooms will at first appear to absorb the melted butter, but will eventually release the butter and their own liquid. As the liquid evaporates, the mushrooms will acquire a golden brown color.
Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Once the beef has finished cooking, carefully pour the mixture through a sieve or strainer. Allow the sauce to collect in a large measuring cup (the 4-cup kind) or glass bowl. Return the beef and bacon to the dutch oven pan. Discard the carrot and onion pieces.
Arrange the brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms over the beef.
Allow the sauce to rest for a few minutes. The excess fat will rise to the surface as it rests. Use a spoon to collect and discard the excess fat. Repeat until much of the excess fat has been discarded.
You should have about 2 – 2-1/2 cups of sauce. If you have much more than this, pour the sauce into a small saucepan and simmer uncovered until it’s reduced a bit. It should be quite flavorful and thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired. Pour the sauce over the beef, mushrooms, and onions.
Serve over boiled potatoes or hot-buttered noodles. Julia recommends a side of buttered peas as an appropriate veggie side.