A family recipe is something precious especially when it is given freely and with love. Although I think my Frogger-in-law doesn't really like people hovering over him as he cooks he granted me the privilege of shadowing him as he prepared Boeuf Bourguignon. I peppered him with lot and lots of questions and had notes upon notes as I watched. He was very good about it all but the recipe was his mother's so I had better get every scrap of information right or suffer ancestral wrath. Frog swears it is the best version of the dish he's ever had. I was a bit worried to ask but he granted me the privilege of letting you, my readers, in on the family recipe, too. Merci, Papa. You may see there are a lot of notes but they are interesting additions and suggestions. You might want to read through them. If anything, read the note about the wine if you read nothing else there. It's important to have the right vine stock for the meat.
So, without further ado, REAL, honest-to-goodness Boeuf Bourguignon.
(à la Papa)
3-4 cups beef (stewing beef, chuck steak or roast) cut up into large chunks, about 2-3 inches square each
For the marinade:
1 bottle of inexpensive Pinot of Burgundy stock
1 carrot, cut in chunks (optional)
1 onion, cut in chunks (optional)
1-2 bay leaves (optional)
1 sprig dried thyme (optional)
Open the red wine. Place in medium-sized metal bowl all the stewing beef (or chuck roast chunks). Fit together tightly on the bottom in one or two layers. Add the optional flavouring agents with the meat, tucking them in with the meat. Pour all the red wine over the beef and ensure that any meat sticking out above the surfuce is pressed under the wine. Cover the bowl with tinfoil. Place the bowl in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours. However, if you can, leave it for 48 hours as it will improve the flavour. During this time the beef will absorb some of the wine.
Step 2 NB: This step should be started four hours or so before you want to eat.
3 tbsp margarine (mix of margarine and olive oil OK)
3 large shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 small onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1½ -2 cups lardons (N.American equivalent is the same amount of cubed bacon slab)
1½ cups flour
1. In a large, deep-sided skillet or dutch oven, melt the margarine over medium heat until golden-brown.
2. Add shallots, onions and lardons (cubed bacon slab) to margarine and cook over medium heat until the onions are a light golden colour and soft.
3. While the onions, shallots and lardons are cooking, remove the marinating beef from the fridge for preparation.
4. Take the beef out of the marinade and place on a paper towel-lined dish. Lightly dab the beef to remove excess moisture but let it a bit damp so that a coating will adhere. Set the wine marinade aside for later use as the cooking sauce. The herbs need not be removed as they will continue to add flavour to the sauce during cooking
5. In a flat dish add the flour for dusting the meat. Drop in the meat and lightly cover each piece completely with a layer of flour. Set the coated meat aside.
6. When the onion mixture is browned, set aside the onions, shallots and lardons in a separate dish but leave as much of the drippings in the pan as possible.
7. Add 2 more tablespoons of margarine to the drippings and set back on the medium heat. Lightly scrape off any leavings from the onion mix as you stir the margarine.
8. Add the floured meat to the pan in one layer( if your meat cannot fit in one layer you may have to repeat the procedure more than once). Over medium heat brown and seal in the juices of the meat chunks. While a side is cooking do NOT stir around. Let them remain in their layer and only press down on them from time to time. Once a side is a nice dark brown colour, repeat the process on another side. Add a bit more margarine if the meat seems to be sticking too much. Continue this until at least four sides are brown and sealed on all the meat. (NB: Darker brown is better so don’t be scared to let this part take a while to finish). If necessary, set aside first set of meat and repeat step 8.
9. When all the meat is completely browned (and, if necessary, all returned to the pan) add a ladlespoon-full of the wine marinade to the pan and deglaze anything stuck to the pan. Let the wine come to a boil and then add another ladleful of wine marinade. Again let the wine come to a full boil. Repeat this procedure of slowly adding the wine until it is completely added and the wine is bubbling.
10. When all the wine marinade is in with the beef and bubbling gently, add the onion mixture. Stir until completely mixed in to the beef and wine.
11. Cover with a tightly fitting lid, turn down until a gentle simmer. Check every ½ hour, stir, return lid. Simmer for 3 hours (2 is okay, 2 ½ is pretty good, 3 is best).
12. Serve hot with suggested side dish and a nice Bordeaux (we had a nice Château Lieujean Haut-Médoc).
1. Take a Pinot red table wine in which the meat must marinate. Be sure it is a Pinot from the Burgundy stock of vine and not the actual Alsatian wine. This Pinot does not have to be expensive because you will not taste the difference with the cooking. Also, do NOT use a Bordeaux red as it is not acidic enough to create the right flavour for the meat.
2. Rich people have been known to use an expensive Pinot in their Boeuf Bourgignon and have another expensive bottle of the same for drinking with the stew. This is really not necessary and only an affectation of the nouveau riche. It will not make the meal taste any better. Cheap wine works just fine.
3. Take beef for stewing (chuck roast) that has a bit of fat to it. A stewing beef with no fat will not taste as good. Pack this beef into a metal bowl as tightly as they will go together but not with too much squishing. The tight packing will help make sure that not too much wine is needed to completely cover the beef.
4. Flavouring agents can be added to the wine to give the sauce more flavour: bay leaves, thyme, carrots, onions. The herbs can be added whole to the wine and beef but the vegetables can be added cut up.
5. Butter can be used for the cooking of the onions or the beef but it will sputter and spit more. However, if you want to use it, it will impart more taste to the meat.
6. If the meat, for some reason gets a bit burnt during the browning process do NOT worry. The three hours of simmering will improve the state and it will still taste fine.
7. This meal can be served with Alsatian egg noodles, a nest of flat fresh pasta, spaghetti, boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.
8. You can create a chicken dish, Coq Bourguignon, using the same procedure and ingredients except replacing the beef with chicken.