What, essentially, is beef Burgundy? It’s beef slow cooked in red wine. In the olden days, so I have read, French peasants in the Burgundy region made good use of tougher cuts of meet by stewing them. Ergo, the name for the dish which reflects its origin.
What makes a really good beef Burgundy? The first thing is time. It’s a stew and that means long and slow cooking. You just can’t hurry up the process.
The second thing is the correct ingredients. Good red wine, good bacon, and fresh mushrooms (substituting canned mushrooms is a terrible idea).
Any good red wine will work for this dish and, although I have penchant for semi-sweet wines, I have to admit that dry red wine is best for making beef Burgundy. The result is a hearty stew that is perfect for the colder weather.
The third thing is the correct cooking procedure. Flour the beef and brown until caramelized. That flour that coats the meat will thicken the sauce naturally during stewing. Turn the beef cubes to brown all sides. Do not move them too often though and do not flip them too early to make sure that a light crust forms to sear and seal the meat.
Exercise patience when cooking the bacon. You’re not just cooking it — you’re making it render fat in which to soften onion slices. So, don’t be tempted to throw the bacon, onion and garlic into the pot all at the same time. Wait until the bacon has rendered enough fat before adding the onion and garlic.
When the onion slices have softened, add the browned beef to the pot and pour in the wine. Let the alcohol boil off for before adding the tomatoes, broth, thyme and bay leaf. This is important so that the stew acquires the richness of the wine with none of the bitterness. Then, just let everything simmer until the beef is fork-tender.
The pearl onions and button mushrooms are cooked in butter before they are added to the beef. Once added, another fifteen minutes or so of simmering and the flavors should be beautifully blended.
Full recipe below
- 1 kilogram beef brisket - cut into two-inch cubes
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoon olive oil - not extra virgin
- 100 grams belly bacon - diced
- 1 onion - sliced
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 can stewed tomatoes - with the liquid
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 to 3 cups bone broth
- 18 to 24 pearl onions
- 16 to 20 button mushrooms - halved, if large
- 4 tablespoons butter
- fresh parsley - to garnish
- Rub the beef cubes with one tablespoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper.
- Sprinkle in the flour and toss to coat all pieces.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan.
- Brown the beef in batches. As each batch browns, scoop out, transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Proceed with the next batch until all the beef cubes are nicely browned.
- In a thick-bottomed pot, cook the bacon until fat has been rendered.
- Add the sliced onion and garlic.
- Cook until the onion slices start to soften.
- Add the browned beef to the pot.
- Pour in the wine. Boil gently for about ten minutes.
- Add the stewed tomatoes, a cup of broth, the thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for two hours or until the beef is tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan. If the liquid dries out before the beef is done, add more broth, half a cup at a time. Taste the sauce occasionally and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
- When the beef is almost done, prepare the pearl onions by peeling them and cutting off the root ends.
- Heat a frying pan. Add the mushrooms and cook, shaking often, until most of the mushroom water that had been released has evaporated. Add the butter and the pearl onions. Cook for about three minutes.
- Pour the mushrooms and onions, with the butter, into the pot of beef. Stir. Continue cooking over medium heat, uncovered, for another 15 minutes or so, or until the sauce has reached the thickness that you prefer.
- Fish out the bay leaves and pour the stew into a large serving bowl.
- Sprinkle the beef Burgundy with parsley and serve. Pair with rice, crusty bread or cooked noodles.