Sunday, April 7, 2013

Boeuf Bourguignon

One of my friends recently gave birth to a new baby and I wanted to help them out by cooking a meal for them.  I thought Boeuf Bourguignon would be a great choice as the mother have been craving red wine during her pregnancy and I thought the beef would be great with giving her iron.

Boeuf Bourguignon is a classic french beef stew where the meat is stewed in Burgundy wine.  Instead of using Burgundy a good substitute is a nice Pinot Noir as they're made from the same grape.  Burgundy wine is just a Pinot where the grapes are grown and bottling is done at the Burgundy region of France.

For the meat I used beef shank.  This is my first time using beef shank but it was recommended by the butcher at whole foods when I asked for a cut with a lot of collegen.  Meat with collegen are very fibrous and tough but when you slow cook them at low heat the collegen melts into gelatin which transforms the meat into something really tender.  If you ever had Osso Bucco, it's made with veal or lamb shank.

This is most of the ingredients.  Not pictured here is that I ended up adding 1 more cut of beef shank, some tomato paste, some garlic cloves, and demi glace.

First remove the beef off the bone and cut up into chunks.
Then I cut up the bacon into little strips which the french calls 'Lardon'.  I threw it into my dutch oven and cooked on low heat to render out the fat.  After most of the fat has been rendered out and the bacon is crisp, I took it out of the dutch oven and put it aside.

I seasoned the meat with pepper and then seared the beef in the bacon fat in batches.  I didn't use salt as I thought there should be a lot in the bacon fat.  Make sure you don't dump the whole pile in or you won't get the searing benefits.

After the meat is seared you can saute the mirepoix.  Mirepoix is a combination of onion, carrots, and celery.   I then added some tomato paste (maybe a tablespoon or so) and cooked it out on the bottom of the dutch oven.  I then added a few tablespoons of flour and formed a roux with the remaining fat left in the pan.
I added a little bit of the pinot here and then deglazed the bottom of the dutch oven with it.   Deglazing is where you use liquid to dissolve the fond that was created by searing the beef and browning the bacon.  There is a lot of flavour in that fond and you're working that flavour into your sauce by dissolving it.

I then added the beef and bacon back into the dutch oven.  I also added a bouquet garni by tying together thyme leaves and parsley stems.  Also in the pot is a few garlic cloves, the shank bones, and a few bay leaves.

Finally I added enough of the wine to cover the meat as well as a several cubes of demi glace.  Demi glace is veal stock that has been reduced by 3/4 so it's fairly concentrated.  I happen to have made some previously and I store them in my freezer after forming them into little ice cubes.
Crank the heat and bring to a simmer.  Then put the whole thing into a 275 F oven.  Let it braise for 3 hours.  When there's 1/2 hour left I sautéed the mushrooms in garlic butter and added it in.  If you like pearl onions you can also sautée a batch of pearl onions in butter and added it in at the same time as the mushrooms.  1 tip here is while the stew is braising you can also put potatoes in the oven for a mash potato accompaniment.

Here's the finished product!  Actually this is an old photo from a previous time I made this dish.  For this batch I packed it all up and sent it to my friend.  I did taste the meat before I packed it though and the beef shank just melted in your mouth after 3 hours of braising!  If you're not a fan of wine it's ok.  After cooking for 3 hours any sharp wine taste gets mellowed out a lot and you're left with a very rich sauce.

For the authentic version you can always consult Julia Child's version on youtube.  In her cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", she describes the dish 'sauté de boeuf à la Bourguignonne' as "certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man".

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