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Burgundy Beef Stew adapted from Saveur’s "New Comfort Food"

Burgundy Beef Stew adapted from Saveur’s "New Comfort Food"
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Confession Time:  Those vegetables that look like potatoes?
They are potatoes served alongside the dish the night before.
Since I didn’t get a photograph then, this picture was taken the next day
with the leftovers potatoes added to the stew.
         When we entertain, I love to do things that will keep me out of the kitchen once the guests have arrived.  And in winter, a great braise is a perfect way to do it.  And if you’re choosing a great beef dish, Boeuf Bourguignon is an obvious choice.  However, who can forget Julie and Julia, the movie where the young blogger cooks her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking?  In case you have forgotten, Julie was doing fine until the day she arrived at Julia’s recipe for Beef Bourguignon.   There she failed miserably. I am not entirely sure of the details but Julie fell asleep and the stew went awry.  As ridiculous as it sounds, that scared me off Julia’s recipe. Instead, I pulled out Saveur’s “The New Comfort Food. Home Cooking from around the World” (Chronicle Books 2011). I have used this cookbook with great success. In fact, I find Saveur and James Oseland, editor of both this book and the magazine, are completely trustworthy where recipes are concerned.  This recipe was listed as “Burgundy-Style Beef Stew”.  There’s not necessarily a lot different about it from the recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon.  At least there wasn’t until I started fiddling with it.

         Traditional Beef Bourguignon stews along with carrots and celery and onions for several hours.  Then the meat is removed from the pot and the entire contents—wine, beef broth, and the vegetables—are meant to be put through a fine mesh strainer, the solids removed altogether.  The gravy is then thickened via another 10 to 12 minutes on the stove.  The onions and mushrooms, cooked on their own, are added to the dish and it is ready to serve.  However, when I got to the instruction about straining the vegetables, I looked into the pot. I loved seeing the color of the carrots and the dash of green of the celery.  I couldn’t think of a reason to make the dish monochromatically brown.  I left the vegetables in.  They took away absolutely nothing.  I think they made the dish far more attractive and the mushrooms and pearl onions didn’t seem to mind at all.
         Before we get to the actual recipe, here are some things you should know.  First, never buy pre-cut pieces of anything labelled ‘stewing beef’. For one thing, these pieces tend to be much smaller than they should be.  A really great stew should be made of two-inch cubes of beef.   The second problem with ‘stewing beef’ is that you have no clue what part of the animal the pieces represent.  Could be the toughest of all cuts for all we know.  For truly great beef stew you really need to use a cut that is, frankly, a little fatty.  A beef Chuck Roast, which is never terribly expensive, is ideal for this recipe.  Cut it into cubes by yourself.  Another cut which is exceptional for stewing is the boneless short ribs you can find at Costco.  The next pieces of advice are very important. When you cut up your roast or short ribs, dry them with paper towel.  They will cook far more successfully if you do. Second, as tedious as it sounds, you must brown the beef in hot oil in batches where none of the pieces touch each other.  If they do touch, you are in danger of not browning the meat but steaming it.   To get the maximum beef flavor you want to achieve something called the Maillard reaction.  This is a complicated chemical reaction that happens when you brown food properly.  I’ll spare you the details but almost all the flavor of the beef comes from proper browning.  Once the meat is browned, the dish is almost unbelievably easy.  You just put everything into the pot and put it in the oven. When it’s almost time to serve, the onions and mushrooms are sautéed in a little butter.  If you have a warming oven, you can do this in advance.  Then it’s ready to serve.  And my, is it good! Here’s the recipe: 

10 thoughts on “Burgundy Beef Stew adapted from Saveur’s "New Comfort Food"”

  • I wish you wrote this blog a few years ago because it would have saved me from my "browning complex". Only from reading Cooks did I finally learn that i was steaming the meat. Hopefully others will read what you wrote and it will help them. I finally learned how to brown meat after 30 years of cooking. Ridiculous but true.

  • If this is the dish you made over The Holidays everyone go out and make this dish. The layers of favor was so so good,I wish I had some right now.

  • Isn't it amazing how, even if you've cooked for years, you don't necessarily know the right techniques? The other part of the perfect browning process is making sure that the meat is dry. Who knew?

  • "I think they made the dish far more attractive and the mushrooms and pearl onions didn’t seem to mind at all."

    I am so glad to hear this. I hate when the mushrooms cop an attitude and the pearl onions roll aloofly away! LOL. Why did I read this before dinner with an empty fridge?!!

  • Dear Cranky Beer. Glad you got a kick out of this post. And I am terribly sorry to hear about your empty fridge. Try it over the weekend. Especially if you live anywhere in the Frozen North. Thanks for your visit! Monte

  • Monte – Tim and I think this is the best beef stew we have ever had. The depth of flavors was wonderful…and perhaps even better when we reheated the leftovers? Thank you for this. It is a definite repeat! Barbara

  • Hi Barb! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I must say I was very pleased with the outcome of this recipe. Just this past weekend, I made a large quantity of it for the homeless shelter that Andrew and I cook for. What was wonderful was that I could incorporate all kinds of vegetables that I had on hand. To the carrots and celery, I added fennel. It was the kind of hearty stew that really helps these poor homeless guys stay warm long after they've had their dinner. Hope to see you soon and best to you and Tim!

  • Monte I love how you make me the star in what’s known in my house as “The Bitchy Kitchen”. Any recipe from your website gets the “awesome” rating from my husband. I did take liberties and add potatoes because we were sharing our meal with some meat n taters kind of folks. They also raved about it. I now look here before going anywhere else for whatever recipe I’m looking for. Thank you again.

    • Dear Tina, You really know how to make a guy’s day! Wow! I am just so pleased to hear from you and to know that the effort we put into this blog is not in vane! Keeep cooking and making any changes you want to! And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you so much. Monte

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