Beef Bourguignon, in my opinion, is the absolute best thing you can eat, and it makes for an elegant and easy dinner party menu.
Beef Bourguignon is the French variety of beef stew, simmered in red wine, and infused with layers of flavor that are a testament to how important it is to take your time and pay attention to all the little details. It really does make a different you can taste. Beef Bourguignon is not difficult, but it invites you to savor the process and create beauty from basic ingredients.
The process of layering flavors in the pot, building a sauce as you cook each ingredient, makes Beef Bourguignon stand apart from other variations of stewed beef. The end result will come alive on your palette.
The layers of flavor begin with smoky chunks of bacon, followed by seared chunks of beef. Carrots and onions are sautéed in the smoky seared bits left behind from the bacon and beef. Once the vegetables are beginning to take on color, we add cognac (not optional!) and light it on fire, letting the flame do its magic. The alcohol burns off, charring the edges of vegetables, and leaving behind a caramel essence that you cannot recreate any other way. Finally, the meat is simmered with stock and wine until tender, and then the dish is finished with butter-basted mushrooms and tiny pearl onions.
Are you drooling?
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Beef Bourguignon is best prepared a day (or two! or three!) ahead. The flavors deepen and develop, magically melding with the passing of time.
To serve Beef Bourguignon, you literally need nothing but a spoon and a hunk of bread. It is heaven in a bowl, elegance in one pot, and the best thing I can imagine eating forever and ever amen.
Dinner Party Beef Bourguignon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 ounces applewood smoked bacon, cut into small chunks
- 3 pounds chuck stew meat
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 onions, chopped in large pieces
- 10 carrots, cut into large diagonal chunks
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 cup cognac
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 750 ml-bottle dry red wine, such as a cote du rhone or burgundy
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
- 1 pound frozen pearl onions
- In a large dutch oven, over medium-high heat, cook the bacon in the olive oil until brown and crisp.
- While the bacon cooks, prepare the meat. Line a sheet tray with paper towels and lay the meat on the towels in a single layer. Use additional paper towels to pat the meat dry. Sprinkle the meat with 1 tablespoon Kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.
- When the bacon is finished cooking, remove it with a slotted spoon to a plate, keeping the fat in the pan.
- Brown the meat in three batches, taking care not to crowd the pan. Allow the meat to fully sear on one side, which will only happen if you leave it alone. Once it is brown on one side, remove it to the plate with the bacon and continue with the remaining meat. I find it takes 5-8 minutes for each batch to brown sufficiently on one side. Take care to watch your heat. The meat should be sizzling, but nothing should be burning in the bottom of your pan.
- Once all of the meat has been removed from the pan, add the onion, carrots, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the pot. Stir well, coating the vegetables in fat and seasoning. Cook the vegetables until the onions are wilting and just beginning to take on color. This will take between 10 and 20 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic and tomato paste to the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook for two minutes.
- Add the cognac and carefully light the alcohol by introducing a flame to the pot. I use a long aim-flame device and stand back. It will quickly ignite and flame up, but then it will subside into a low flame contained inside the pot. Do not stir or agitate the pot at this point. The flame will go out once all of the alcohol has burned away.
- Add the bacon, beef, broth, red wine, and fresh thyme to the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer, reduce the heat, and cover the pot. Cook, covered, until the meat is fork-tender. This will take anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of your beef chunks.
- While the meat simmers, heat the unsalted butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until golden brown. The mushrooms will first release their liquid, then that liquid will steam off, and then the mushrooms will begin to take color. The pan should be dry at the end.
- When the meat is fully cooked, add the mushrooms and pearl onions. You do not need to thaw the pearl onions. The heat of the stew will quickly thaw them. At this point you can serve the Beef Bourguignon in bowls with hunks of crusty bread.
- Or, you can prepare this dish up to three days in advance. Store covered in the fridge. When you are ready to serve, gently heat the stew until everything is hot and bubbly.