Julia Child is an iconic chef who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in France and then later went on to publish many cookbooks and have her own television cooking show.
Years ago when I first saw the movie Julie and Julia I was mesmerized by the food that was being made. I had heard of Julia Child but I had never looked up any of her recipes. After that movie I looked through her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to see if I wanted to buy it. I like simple cooking so I decided to pass, but I did want to make the one recipe from the movie that I could remember: beef bourguignon.
I was lucky enough to find a very nice cast iron dutch oven on sale last year which worked perfectly for this recipe. You will also need multiple pots and pans as there are many components to the dish. First, the ingredients:
- Olive oil
- 3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes (mine already came chopped up because there are no butchers around here that I know of where I could get whole pieces)
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 3 cups young red wine such as Burgundy, Chianti, Bordeaux, or Beaujolais
- 2-3 cups brown beef stock
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1/4 tsp fresh thyme)
- 1 bay leaf
- 18-24 small white onions (I used pearl onions)
- 1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms
- 6 Tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
First you will pat dry your chunks of beef with paper towels. Julia explains in the video that beef won’t brown if you do not pat it dry. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to cover the bottom of your pan with a light film, in a skillet or pan and brown the beef. Make sure you aren’t crowding the pan. Once the beef is browned, put it into your dutch oven or casserole that is at least four inches deep. You will want to make sure the heat is turned on the burner your dutch oven is on because later you will simmer the mixture.
If there’s any oil left in the pan when you are done browning the meat, drain it but leave the browned bits. Deglaze the pan with three cups, or about 2/3 of the bottle, of red wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the brown bits up and then pour it all over the beef in your dutch oven. Add enough beef stock to the dutch oven to barely cover the meat.
While it’s coming to a simmer or low boil, add the tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic. Check the flavor and add a small amount of salt if needed. As Julia says in the video, the sauce won’t taste very good because the wine is still raw, so make sure you don’t add too much salt. As my mom always says, you can add salt, but you can’t take it away if you get too much. Put the dutch oven in the oven for 3-4 hours depending on how tender your meat is. While it is cooking, you will make the braised onions and mushrooms (and probably clean up because you will have plenty of time to do so).
Boil water in a small saucepan. Once the water is boiling, place the onions in the water and wait for it to come back to a boil. When the water is boiling again, let the onions sit in the water for 20 seconds then remove them with a slotted spoon. When they have cooled enough to where you can handle them, cut off a little bit of each end and peel the outer skin off. Place the peeled onions in a saucepan that is big enough so the onions aren’t crowded. Pour water over the onions until they are about halfway covered, add 1 tablespoon of butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cover for 25 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Take onions out with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Wash the mushrooms in a bowl of water, lifting and dropping mushrooms in and out of the water with your hands. When they are clean dry them off. Quarter the cap and cut the stem on the bias. If the mushroom cap is large, you may want to cut it into halves then cut each half into three pieces. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan. You will know the pan is hot enough when the butter stops foaming. Pour in the dry mushrooms and cook for about 2-3 minutes total, stirring occasionally. Set mushrooms aside.
When the stew comes out of the oven, take the bay leaf out and pour the whole pot over a sieve into a large saucepan. Pour the meat back into the dutch oven. Heat the liquid over medium heat and skim off fat from the top (but not all of it). Taste the liquid and check flavorings. Add salt and pepper as needed. In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of flour and 3 tablespoons of room temperature butter. (Note: the amount of flour and butter will differ depending on how much liquid you have. You want to have the same about of flour and butter as you do liquid. If you have about 2 cups of liquid, only use 2 tablespoons of flour and butter.) Work the butter and flour into a paste which is called a beurre manié. Take the sauce off the burner and put the beurre manié in. Whisk the mixture then put the pan back on the heat and bring to a boil.
While the sauce is thickening on the heat, pour the onions and mushrooms in with the beef. When the sauce is thick pour it over the beef and vegetables then stir. You may want to put the dutch oven over heat again before serving, about 2-3 minutes.
This dish, despite the long recipe, is fairly simple to make and tastes delicious! My mom made boiled new potatoes and steamed broccoli as our sides. If you would like, it is suggested that you serve Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chianti, or Beaujolais wine with the dish as it will complement it nicely. In the words of Julia Child, bon appetit!