Julie & Julia Inspires Boeuf Bourguignon

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As many of you know I spent most of my adult life working professionally as a chef. It was a great career that I often miss, but I have not lost my love of the kitchen.  The recent release of the movie Julie & Julia has given me reason to think back on my earliest days in the kitchen.

Without a doubt, Julia Child was one of the greatest influences on the American culinary renaissance, of which I was a willing partner. Her high-pitched voice and awkward movements, not to mention nonchalance in the kitchen, made her seem so real and authentic that it was impossible not to be enchanted by her.

Yes I admit it, I whiled away my rare days home from school watching Julia, the galloping gourmet and the other seminal cooking shows that helped shape a generation of chefs.  I also fell in love with Julia’s cookbooks. Recipes that revealed the mysteries of the French culinary tradition like no one had before.

All this thinking about Julia, and Julie, got me thinking of the quintessential Julia Child recipe for the cold winter months: Boeuf Bourguignon!  Below you’ll find my version of that Julia Child classic with a great wine recommendation. So grab a DVD, or Blu-ray disc, of Julie & Julia and settle in for an evening of culinary delights as you live the Julia life for a night.

What to expect: Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir: Responsible for some of the greatest wines on earth, the exalted red wines of France's Burgundy region, Pinot Noir is a notoriously fickle grape that expresses it's origins like no other. It's a vine that needs to struggle to produce great wines but when it does the depth of flavors that range from cherry to cola can be explosive and the wines bright acidity and gentle tannins make them approachable and widely appealing.

Boeuf a la Bourguignon doesn't require a great Pinot for the recipe, but it should be paired with one.

Boeuf a la Bourguignon
Julia Child introduced so many new dishes into the American vernacular with her original “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and continued to influence the culinary world for decades, perhaps reaching her apogee with the release of the indispensable ‘The Way to Cook”.  I get goosebumps thinking of my first days with that tome, following Christmas 1989. There is no better way to pay homage to the grand dame of the American culinary scene than whipping up a batch of Boeuf a la Bourguignon on a cold winter’s day.

2006 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir
The noticeable oak on the nose is backed by a healthy dose of black soil, and very ripe cherry fruit that just manages to not go over the top. On the palate this is already showing wonderful integration with bright fruit buffering the strongly smoky barrel notes. The acid is a touch high but balanced by the ripe tannins. This needs food to show at it's best but finishes strongly with dark berry fruits, with anise and clove spice tones.

Boeuf Bourguignon is a traditional French beef stew recipe that combines red wine with the rich flavorings of bacon, onions and mushrooms. Like all stews and braises, the recipe leaves a lot of room for improvisations. This recipe is a fairly faithful recreation of what is perhaps Julia’s most famous dish, though it combines techniques from at least two of her cookbooks.

The best beef for stewing is one that is from a heavily used muscle. This makes the meat tough, which the stewing will take care of, but more importantly creates connective tissue within the muscle bundle. That connective tissue will break down through the long, slow cooking process and help to naturally thicken the stew, giving the cooking liquid a velvety texture.

For me there is no better cut for stewing than the chuck roast. Conveniently, chuck roasts usually come in at around 3 to 4 pounds, making them perfect for use in this recipe. If you can’t find a nice chuck roast use your favorite beef for stewing.

The classic red wine for use in this dish is, of course, Burgundy. Now that most Burgundy has become rather dear, I suggest using an alternative, such as Beaujolais, a Cotes du Rhone, or my favorite: an inexpensive, fruity Zinfandel. Stay away from heavily oaked or sweet wines, as the cooking process will concentrate the wine, highlighting these traits. After much experimentation I have found that once you get to a certain level of quality, any added nuance a better wine may have had before cooking, gets simmered away, so splurge on the wine for the dinner table, not the Dutch oven.

I am lazy, so I use a 6-quart Dutch oven for both he browning of the meat as well as cooking the stew. Traditionally two pans would have been used.

To download a printable pdf copy of this recipe please follow this link.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces slab bacon, rind removed, cut into 1/4-by-1 1/2-inch lardoons
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes, patted dry
  • 1 cup carrot, thinly sliced into ½ inch coins
  • 1 medium onion, sliced crosswise
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cups red wine or some combination such as 1 bottle of red wine and 3 cups of beef stock. If using store bought beef stock find a low sodium brand
  • 2 cups of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 3 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp soften butter blended into a thick, smooth paste known as beurre manie
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 dozen cipollini onions, or pearl onion, peeled
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered

Technique

Step One: Browning the Meat.

  1. Pat the cubed meat dry with paper towels.
  2. Warm the Dutch oven over medium heat and add 3 tbsp of olive oil to the pan.
  3. Add the lardons to the oil and fry the bacon until it just begins to brown, being careful to stir the lardons to promote even browning, and to prevent burning.
  4. Remove the Dutch oven from heat and with a slotted spoon or strainer remove the lardons and reserve for later use.
  5. Turn the heat up to moderately high.
  6. Once the fat is very hot begin browning the meat. Make sure not to crowd the meat cubes, otherwise the oil will cool too much and the meat won’t brown. Be careful to turn your cubes to get them evenly browned. Once the first batch is done reserve to a clean bowl and keep working in batches until all the meat is browned.

Beginning the Stew.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F
  2. Once the meat has been browned return the Dutch oven to moderate heat and add the sliced onions.
  3. Saute the sliced onions until they are golden brown, then add the wine to the Dutch oven, scraping the fond (the delicious browned crust on the bottom of the pan) free, and incorporating it into the sauce.
  4. Add the carrots, garlic, tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, and bay leaf to the cooking liquid and stir well.
  5. Add the browned beef, and any juices, to the cooking liquid and season with some salt. It’s time to be very judicious with the salt, you can always add more later.
  6. Allow the stew to come to a simmer on the stovetop then put in the preheated oven.
  7. The beef takes about 3 hours to cook, and is done when it’s fork tender.
  8. Once the meat is fully cooked allow it to cool in it’s cooking liquid. This is very important and allows the meat to reabsorb some of the cooking liquid.
  9. Once the meat has cooled, pour the contents of the Dutch oven into a colander and remove the chunks of meat from the solids. Then press the juices out from the remaining solids in the colander. Dispose of the strained solids
  10. You should have about 3 cups of cooking liquid that is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, if not you can reduce the liquid later. Allow the fat to come to the top of your cooking liquid and degrease as best you can. Reserve the liquid. The easiest way to do this is to do most of this work one day before you have to serve the stew. Once the cooking liquid has been refrigerated all the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making degreasing a simple process of pulling off a small layer of fat from the surface of the liquid.

Finishing the Stew.

  1. Wipe down the Dutch oven.
  2. Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to the Dutch oven and return the bacon lardons to the pan.
  3. Once the bacon begins to fry add the Cremini Mushrooms, seasoned with salt and pepper, to the Dutch oven and sauté until they have lost most of their water and have begun to brown.
  4. Add the Cippolini onions to the mushroom mix and continue to sauté until the onions begin to brown.
  5. Return the cooking liquid to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. If you need to reduce your liquid do it over a medium boil.
  6. Once you have the right amount of cooking liquid check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Remove the dutch oven from heat and whisk in the beurre manie until it’s complete incorporated into the cooking liquid.
  8. Return the meat to the cooking liquid and allow the stew to briefly come to a simmer as the meat heats through.
  9. I like to serve my Beouf Bourguignon with buttered egg noodles but you can use rice, potatoes, or whatever you wish.
  10. Enjoy!

Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • Snooth User: Greg Roberts
    Hand of Snooth
    100798 227

    I use a variation of the Joy of Cooking recipe and in fact have some beef marinating in Beaujolais wine right now, so I'll give your version a try. A fruity Gamay seems to work best for the marinade in my experience.

    Dec 11, 2009 at 1:38 PM


  • Snooth User: jothmore
    188986 7

    Pinot Noir? This dish needs a great red..from the left bank or one of the better houses in Cal,,Siver Oak..Caymus..ad infinitum. Forget Opus..they lost their claim to great wine when they built their utterly rediculous "White Elephant" showcase. Its current Cab ought be under $20. Po0mmerol offers outstanding Merlots for this. Save the Pinot Noir for the turkey and the pork.

    Dec 11, 2009 at 6:30 PM


  • Greg, I must admit that I was not aware you had been a chef. I will tell you that I consider you one of my most influential and respected taster/reviewers, along with Robert Parker and marcus@ avalonwine.com. I salute you both for your educated and elegant sense of taste and only wish I shared that level of wine knowledge. I hope that I can meet each of you someday to share stories and absorb some of your knowledge. If you ever plan to come to the Twin Cities, please let me know. If I land a job that includes travel to NYC again, I absolutely intend to to let you know. Thank you, and Best Wishes for a holiday season that includes the best the vines have to offer. Thank You! dan

    Dec 11, 2009 at 8:31 PM


  • Snooth User: cecilia2
    Hand of Snooth
    236453 3

    For a really great Roast Goose recipe and other food & wine stories go to http://www.schubertestate.com/oldht...

    Dec 12, 2009 at 6:16 AM


  • I have to agree with Jothmore, this meals screams out for an excellent "cabernet" drinkers merlot such as St. Supery 2003. Reading this recipe on a cold day in Michigan makes me wish I had the ingredients on hand to prepare the Beouf Bourguignon. I look forward to preparing the meal. Keep up the great work.

    Dec 12, 2009 at 3:05 PM


  • Snooth User: kulhluk
    90347 12

    Always something interesting going on here. I loved Julia for what she accomplished (in my mind, a witty understanding of and proper pronunciation guide for Quiche Loraine to start with, always with an appropriate wine that was always on hand) and the introduction to so many of the greats like Bocuse and Pepin. An absolutely wonderful human influence on the understanding of the treasures of French cuisine. Keep it going!

    Dec 13, 2009 at 4:42 PM


  • Snooth User: Sandrineq
    221937 33

    I have never used a pinot for this dish, but i wont condemn it until i try it. So i promise that i will use your recommendations and see how it turns out. Who knows.... it might give it a very rich and wonderful flavor!

    Dec 16, 2009 at 4:10 PM


  • Snooth User: kev2033
    305679 7

    I made a variation of this tonight - from Cook's Illustrated. Did not require removing the beef and other solids and straining the liquid, or the additonal butter. Just added frozen pearl onions and potatoes near the end of the 3 hour cooking session, along with a packet of gelatin to give it that viscious quality. Was very good - at least my family liked it!

    Dec 23, 2009 at 12:38 AM


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