Friday, January 05, 2007

 

Beef Bourguignon

  I'm not sure that I have ever had beef Bourguignon before, but it tastes so familiar. There is something about the thickly and juicily coated, oozy meatiness of the cubes of meat that is all too familiar. Are there any Kiwis or Brits out there who can recall similar dishes that "we" make? Even if they can be recalled, I'm sure they do not require as much wine as this one does (1 bottle of a dry red for 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of meat). I was not venturing to make anything traditional; this was just a weeknight stew that I had thought of as a candidate for my submission to the Weekeend Cookbook Challenge, and I followed the simple instructions in a cookery book by contemporary chef Tyler Florence, who is known for amping up the flavors of traditional dishes, usually by introducing ingredients from other cultures.

It is imperative to have well-marbled cubes of beef chuck or beef round. As the fat breaks down, it gives off some liquid for the stew, but mostly its purpose is to keep the meat very moist. My angelheart Eric and I were in a bit of tizz, hurrying around the market, and grabbed the last stewing meat available. Sadly, we were idiotic enough to not really look at the meat until we got home. If you are buying meat for the purpose of making a stew, the marbling factor should not be an after-thought. We were disappointed, to say the least, but we weren't going to use it for anything else (there was some marbling).

Considering the amount of meat, I think Tyler Florence's recipe from Real Cooking calls for too much flour to coat the meat (this acts as a thickening agent for the stew and allows for a slow release of the fat from the meat). That which did not adhere to the meat hung around on the bottom of the dutch oven, and though I scraped and stirred the stew occasionally, this was not enough to break it up. I should have trusted my eyes as I was coating the meat, so I do take some responsibility for this - and for those of you who feel that recipes are just guidelines, then the responsibility for adding too much flour should fall squarely on my shoulders. In my defense, and upon reflection, Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook uses only 2 tablespoons of flour for 2 pounds of meat, and Tamasin Day-Lewis' Tamasin's Kitchen Bible uses 1 1/2 to 2 tablspoons for 1 3/4 pounds of meat. The latter clearly shows that it really depends on the day how much flour the beef absorbs. Lesson learned: Use the flour in this recipe only as a guideline; if no more flour is being absorbed, then cease adding it.

This recipe has been adjusted to feed around 3 people (my angelheart Eric and me, plus leftovers).

Beef Bourguignon
(from Tyler Florence's Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen)

canola oil (we used vegetable oil, actually)
2 bacon slices
2 pounds beef chuck or round, cut in 2" x 2" (5cm by 5cm) cubes
salt
pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup Cognac
1/2 bottle dry red wine (to keep it traditionally flavored, go with a Burgandy)
7 1/4oz low sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Bouquet garni (we used: rosemary, thyme, tarragon, and, mostly, flat-leaf parsley)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup pearl onions, blanched and peeled (or baby onions from the frozen section)
(1/2 pound mushrooms - much to my angelheart's chagrin, I omitted this from the stew because I do not enjoy mushrooms at all; I did add 1/4 pound peeled carrots)
pinch of sugar (to balance out the red wine's acidity)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

1) Put a Dutch oven over medium heat and drizzle 1 teaspoon of oil.
2) Fry the bacon until it is crisp, then remove it to a paper towel for later usage.
3) Brown the beef well in oil and bacon fat in batches. Do not crowd the pot or the meat will not brown properly but will start stewing, thereby ruining the slow time release of the fat in the beef, rendering the beef dry.
4) Once the meat is browned, put it all back in the pot and sprinkle the flour over it. Stir to make sure it is well-coated.
5) Pour in the Cognac and stir to scrape up bits on the bottom of the Dutch oven.
6) Once the alcohol has mostly evaporated, pour in the red wine and beef broth, followed by the tomoto paste and bouquet garni. Stir everything together.
7) Bring the pot up to a simmer and cook until the liquid starts to thicken, yielding a consistency like that of a sauce, approximately 15 minutes.
8) Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.
9) Uncover the pot, add the garlic, onions, carrots (and mushrooms, if using), and sugar.
10) Season with salt and pepper.
11) Turn heat up to medium-low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until meat and vegetables are tender.
12) Remove bouqet garni, stir in the butter.
13) Serve with flat-leaf parsley and crumbled bacon bits as garnish.
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Comments:
I made Anthony Bourdains Beef Bourguignon for an earlier WCC and it was amazing. You are very right - the quality of ingredients are really important.
 
Hi Shaun, the beef looks good despite the quality and overabundance of flour. In fact, I had a similar experience last night when I made the lamb shanks. When I flour meat, I very rarely take note of directions because most of the flour is dusted off when you put the meat into the pan anyway. I usually put some seasoned flour in a bag, throw the meat in the bag and shake it about, then remove the meat by hand. I am nearly always left with a tonne of flour (metaphorically speaking)!
Over here we find it hard to get decent beef with marbling and have to make do with whatever is on the supermarket shelf (particularly if the wallet is lean). So, longer, gentler cooking is paramount. But the flavour is unsurpassable when you do use a good cut of older, hung beef.
Have a great weekend Shaun! x
 
Thanks for the reminder about this great winter dish (though winter seems to have left us already in LA!!)...I've made Julia Child's version before and I like it a lot.
 
Sara - I have yet to try any recipes from Anthony Boudain's "Les Halles Cookbook", but I will get around to it soon because everything looks so delicious and great Winter fare. What other recipes of his have you cooked?

Freya, love - Yes, the beef did taste great, quite succulent, but I just knew it would have been infinitely better had there been more fat on the beef chunks. I will use the bag trick next time, for it seems to work for a lot of people. Eric usually does the stew dishes and I just supervise, so this was a first of sorts for me.

Erin - I haven't actually read any Julia Child recipes (shock horror). Is it vastly different to the one I followed?
 
Shaun, I also recommend Anthony Bourdain's recipe for Beef Bourguignon - it was so simple to make, and such a satisfying dish! It used less ingredients as the above recipe.
(I blogged about it in January, and have made it few times since)
 
Pille - You know, when I was considering the beef bourguignon, I flipped through "Les Halles Cookbook". For some reason, it looked like so much work. In hindsight, as I realized when clearly looking at his ingredients and method after making the Tyler version, I knew I should have made his version. But, I don't want to diss Tyler because it was very flavourful, but there just wasn't a lot of sauce in the end. And some/all of that fault is mine.
 
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