So, you may have seen our in depth write up on a fabulous Nashville restaurant called the Chef & I. (If not, you should certainly pop over after you’re done here and check it out!) We attended a 5 or 6 course tasting given by the Chef/Owner himself, Chef Chris Raines. The Chef & I also hold cooking classes several nights a week so we decided to try one. When looking over the options, I was super happy to see they had a french cuisine class coming up AND that the main course was to be Beef Bourguignon! Ever since I watched the movie Julie & Julia I’ve wanted to try this classic French dish. For those who haven’t seen this fabulous movie starring Amy Adams- why not?! It is wonderful! But I digress. Julia Childs was known for many things but her Beef Bourguignon was one of her signature dishes. On the surface, it sounds so fancy. But in reality, it is an overall simple dish composed of rich, flavorful ingredients.
So we attended this cooking class (which we will share with you in greater detail in an upcoming post) and had a BLAST! We came home determined to see if we could recreate the dish without a professional chef guiding us.
In class, we used a beef tenderloin so it was very lean and tender. The most common cut used for this recipe is actually… any beef roast. We used Angus Sirloin Roast at home and had the butcher cut it in to 1 inch cubes. Most grocery stores will do this free of charge when you’re buying a larger cut of meat. I use this option often so I can then portion and freeze my meat for future use. Anyway, one thing I will say about whatever meat you choose is trim as much fat as you can otherwise you’re left skimming it after you pull it from the oven. I may or may not be speaking from experience…
A tip when choosing your wine: Don’t go too cheap (the cheap stuff has a lot of sugar which doesn’t really translate well in this dish). But don’t get too fancy, either. A good middle of the road red will be fine. Just make sure it is on the dry side. We used a Cabernet both times we made it. While it was delicious, I will try an Shiraz or Syrah next time. What you NEVER want to do is use any “cooking” wine sold near the vinegar because this will be loaded with sugar.
Beef Bourguignon is typically served with either a thick slice of hearty bread or some classic mashed potatoes. We opted for bread since The Englishman is a fantastic bread maker. Check out our recipe for the super easy no knead bread here.
Get your oven ready! 325 degrees seems to be the perfect temperature to cook the meat until tender but also keep the time down to a reasonable 2 1/2 hours.
Get your oven safe pot heated on medium-high heat. We want to brown/sear the meat. If you have a really lean cut, go ahead and use a tablespoon or so of cooking oil. Our Sirloin roast was fatty enough we didn’t need any extra oil. You’re not fully cooking the meat here- just sealing the outside to hold in the juices. This step should only take 4-6 minutes at most.
Take the meat out of the pot and set aside. Using the oil/fat in the pot, we are going to cook our onions and carrots. After a couple minutes, add the Thyme and garlic. Fresh Thyme is preferred. If using fresh, make sure to take the little leaves off the sprig. You don’t want the little sticks in your lovely stew.
Tip: To make mincing your garlic easy try using a zester. This recipe doesn’t need the garlic to be in chunks or visible. We just want that fabulous garlic flavor.
When your onions are starting to become translucent, add the mushrooms.
Generously salt your vegetables now. The salt will help draw out the moisture from the mushrooms and make your dish tasty 😉
Give your mushrooms a few minutes to cook a bit. Remember, this will all go in the oven for a couple hours so no need to cook everything through. We just want to get things started.
Here comes the fun next step… Flambe!
Yep- this picture looks different than the rest. We just weren’t able to capture a good flambe photo at home. This is the shot I took in our Chef & I class. Pretty cool, huh?
Here’s how to do this: Add the Cognac and immediately set it on fire. I do NOT recommend using a simple little lighter. If you don’t have one of the long handled ones, you can light the end of a piece of dry spaghetti and use it like a long match. We used blow torches in class so if you have one, go right ahead! Light the Cognac and step back. don’t touch it or stir it. Just let it burn. You’ll see the flames disappear in a few seconds. This burns off the alcohol quickly and brings out more flavor from the Cognac.
Stir in the tomato paste until well incorporated. Next step: more alcohol!
We get to add the wine now. Bring this to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.We want to help cook off the alcohol.
Go ahead and add the beef stock now.
Did you know? The difference between stock and broth as explained by Chef Liz at The Chef & I – Stock is made from the bones and meat cooked down to a concentrated form. Broth is the meat and aromatics cooked down. Stock is typically stronger in meat flavor.
Bring to a boil again and simmer another 10 minutes or so.
Add the meat back in the pot. If using fresh pearl onions, they go in now as well. If using frozen, hang on to them but make sure they’re defrosted!
Time to put this beautiful dish in the oven and let the magic happen. 2-2 1/2 hours should be perfect. Ideally, a lot of your liquid will cook off.
After your 2 or so hours, take the dish back out and get it on medium-high heat on the stove again.
If using fresh pearl onions, you’ve already added them. If using frozen pearl onions they go in now but they MUST be fully defrosted or you risk adding too much liquid back into the dish. If there’s a lot of liquid left, let it simmer for 10-20 minutes or until you’ve reduced the liquid down to at least half of what you had before it went in the oven.
Here is where the butter and flour come into play. We are going to use these two things to make a thickener. Mix the flour and butter together making a kind of paste. Add a bit at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency. It should typically be thick like a stew with gravy.
Grab a dish and serve it up!
I can’t wait for you to try this French classic! Please make sure to share your pictures, comments and results with us! Bon Appetit!