Viva France! A simple recipe for Beef Bourguignon

Few dishes are as comforting as the French classic, Beef Bourguignon. The dish has been prepared in France since the French began preparing food. The recipe, first put to paper in 1903 by Auguste Escoffier, the preeminent chef of the early 20th century, is not difficult, and it’s flexible to allow for personal taste.

Escoffier, after spending time cooking in the French Army (lucky soldiers), was at the pinnacle of the food world in European kitchens from César Ritz’s Grand Hotel Monaco, to London’s Savoy, to The Ritz Paris, and The Ritz London. Escoffier’s wealthy, socialite diners expected flair, and he delivered. But Beef Bourguignon is not expensive, and doesn’t have to be a big deal, little French grannies have made it forever, no pretense, no silver platters, très simple.

The dish was elevated to stardom in the United States by our “First Lady of French Cooking” Julia Child in her 1961 landmark cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Preparation of the dish has now become a rite of passage for aspiring home cooks all over the country. It’s prepared as a family favorite for the holidays, to impress “the Joneses” next door, and for “girl’s night” while sipping wine and watching Julie & Julia on the flat screen, in the kitchen.

For this recipe, we consulted our local expert, Didier Tholognat, of Le Patissier in Corvallis. We’re not using the word “expert” like he’s made the dish a couple of times. Expert because he was born and raised in France, everyone in his family is intimately familiar with the dish, and he is a bona fide French Chef.

Perhaps this recipe can become a regular for you? And as Julia would say while holding high her glass of wine, Bon Appétit!

3 lbs Beef, Chuck or Shanks — inexpensive cuts work well!
5 Strips of Bacon (thick)
3 Cups of (Willamette Valley) Pinot Noir, plus more for personal hydration while cooking… if desired.
2 cups Beef Stock
1 tbsp Tomato Paste
1 Bouquet Garni – *see below
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Yellow Onion Chopped
2 Carrots – sliced thick
1 Pound Mushrooms – halved (white button, or your favorite, or a mix!)
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ Stick of Butter
3 tbsp white flour

*The bouquet garni (French for «garnished bouquet») is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, casseroles and various stews. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients, but is removed prior to consumption. There is no standard recipe, but most French recipes include thyme, bay leaf and parsley. Depending on the recipe, the bouquet garni may also include basil, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, or tarragon. Sometimes, the bouquet is not bound with string, and its ingredients are placed into a small sachet, or even a tea strainer.

Cut bacon into two-inch pieces and cook In a deep, oven-proof roaster until crispy — if you don’t have one, Le Creuset makes the ultimate porcelain, cast-iron Dutch Oven for this, and they’re on sale at Corvallis’ Inkwell Home Store, just FYI. Remove bacon and set aside. Remove excess rendered bacon fat, cook beef on all sides in same pan over medium-high heat to sear, take care not to scorch renderings in pan. Remove beef and set aside. Add three cups pinot to de-glaze pan, cook for a minute or two scraping bottom and sides. Add beef stock, whisk in tomato paste, return seared beef to pot, add garlic, onion, carrots, and bouquet garni. Cover and place in 325 degree oven for two hours.

Remove from oven. Remove everything from cooking pot except liquid. In a small bowl, combine 3tbs butter with 3tbs white flour, mix together by hand until incorporated. Then with pot liquid at a near-boil, add the butter/flour mixture (Beurre Manie) slowly while whisking to thicken. Return everything you took out of the pot back to the pot, except the bouquet garni.

In a separate saucepan, cook the mushrooms in remaining butter until soft and slightly browned. Mix mushrooms into pot.

Heat all again and serve with warm, crusty baguettes (from Le Patissier!), mashed potatoes, or noodles.

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