To sup on winter's harvest while we may, what better dish to serve than a hearty Boeuf a la Bourguignonne to warm us up? This is not difficult work by any means; have your butcher do the hard stuff by cutting up your beef chuck into 2-inch pieces. Do plan ahead however as in this case, patience and time are the best ingredients. It is essential that the beef marinates for 24 hours as the recipe below suggests and in my opinion, throw in another day to cook it first. Allow it to reach room temperature and then return to the fridge. Overnight, miracles happen as the fat forms, creating a precious blanket for the night. Skim the fat off and simmer the dish back to health slowly on the stove top over a low heat for a few hours and discover the heart of France!
For accompaniment, we roasted a host of vegetables lightly coated with grapeseed oil in a 350 degree oven for well over an hour--asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash all went in, with roasted tomatoes and wild mushrooms toward the end when reheating just before serving. We also tossed the lot with beets and finished the dish with handfuls of fresh herbs such as tarragon, marjoram, thyme and chives.
As we prepared dinner, we lit candles for a more intimate setting as the sun went down.
And of course gorgeous flowers came out, the culprits here being green hydrangeas, presented in a cherished Burleigh ware pitcher with an Asiatic Pheasant pattern.
As the wine continued to pour, we filled the table with homemade chocolate cookies courtesy of the boys from Baked and served scoops of Tahitian Vanilla and Malted Milk Ball gelato via Ciao Bella.
Bœuf à la Bourguignonne
Adapted from Saveur magazine
My comments in italics
SERVES 4 – 6
3 lbs. beef chuck, cut into large pieces as I mentioned, have your butcher do it for you!
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped not so fine, it is after all a hearty, rustic dish
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped again, they needn't be chopped terribly fine
2 cloves garlic, peeled why not use more?
1 bouquet garni (see below) look into cubes of bouquet garni imported from Europe, much easier to use, or a cube of vegetable stock
1 bottle good red burgundy we ran out of wine so also used beef stock which was great!
6 oz. lean salt pork, diced bacon will work too
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup flour
1 lb. small white button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps peeled
Throw in potatoes sauteed in bacon fat with some chopped parsley too.
1. Make the bouquet garni by wrapping a 6" piece from green part of a leek, 3 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 2–3 peppercorns in a square piece of cheesecloth, then tying into a pouch with kitchen string.
2. Put beef, onions, carrots, garlic, and bouquet garni in a large bowl and add wine. (If using a cube of stock, add in two cups of water.) Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together, then cover bowl with plastic and refrigerate for 24 hours.
3. Remove beef from marinade, reserving marinade, and dry well on paper towels. Fry salt pork in a large pot over medium heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Season beef with salt and pepper to taste. Add to pot and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add marinade and 2 cups water (if you used the cube of stock, the water is already in there) and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up brown bits. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until meat is tender, about 3 hours. Add mushrooms and cook for 30 minutes more. Remove bouquet garni before serving.
Soundtrack: Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers; Stanley Turrentine, The Spoiler; Lounge Jazz Collection; Herbie Hancock, Cantaloupe Island; Various Artists, Blue Note Revisited.
This recipe was first published in Saveur in Issue #30.