Does the Internet really need another Beef Bourguignon recipe? Not really. But when we were receiving an old friend of mine last weekend, I decided on beef stew as a main, so as not to be tied down in the kitchen while we entertained guests. And if I was going to make stew, given that we hadn’t seen this friend in over 5 years, I decided to go for the classic of classics.
I love beef stew and cook it every second month or so, usually by rote and without a recipe. A little pinch of this, a great big splash of that, and we’re usually in business. There’s actually a beer-based version on the blog excerpted from Coup de Pouce magazine (the French Québec equivalent of Canadian Living). Yet, with years of beef stew know-how behind me, I still found myself surfing the net for the “classic” Bœuf Bourguignon, to check if maybe I hadn’t dropped a required ingredient over the year. Googled displayed… 486,000 results. Sobering. Yet, surprisingly, many recipes were followed by unending comments from readers who wondered about veal stock vs. beef broth, red wine vs. beer, etc., bringing the realization that this rustic French stew charted new, challenging territory for novice, or non-French, cooks.
Perusing over the results, I realized that, over the years, I had dropped the bacon-mushroom-pearl onion combo one adds towards the end and that sets this iconic stew apart. Call me lazy. Call me impatient. Guilty as charged. So I decided to go back to the original recipe that started it all. (Although, unlike Julia Child, I don’t cook the pearl onions in seasoned broth before adding them to the stew. That’s just too many pots to wash, period.) Maybe you too have forgotten the little twists that distinguish this mainstay of French cuisine? So here’s my recipe for classic Bœuf Bourguignon. Easy if a little long, so just pour yourself a glass of wine while you cook. It’s half the fun.
P.S. In the spirit of classicism, you may choose to make this recipe with a young, full-bodied Burgundy vintage. I settled on a red wine created specifically for cooking and drinking with food by Québec sommelier François Chartier—which I recommended in the last Christmas issue of Véro magazine. Named Best Sommelier in the World in 1994; author of Taste Buds and Molecules (Best Cookbook in the World in 2010); wine consultant for Ferran Adrià and El Bulli; Chartier has evolved aromatic harmonies into a science that is mind-blowing chefs everywhere. His new Vins Harmonies collection, sold exclusively at Québec’s IGA stores, sets a local standard in quality supermarket wines. What I like best? The suggested pairings are identified right on the front label (here Rice, Basil, Beef, Cinnamon & Coffee). Pretty cool if you ask me.