• October 13, 2011

    Boeuf Bourguignon

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    This post was written two days ago.

    The photos wouldn’t upload.

    I came back to it yesterday.

    And…. the whole thing went KABLUEY. The site crashed. I was booted out of WordPress. I logged back in to a “NO POSTS FOUND” (!) message. Nothing. No drafts. Nothing published. Nada. I logged out and back in again. Same thing.

    What did I do? I twitched a few times. But I remained calm.

    Well, moderately calm.

    Weeelllll… maybe calm isn’t really the right word.


    I shook my laptop, threw my head down on the keyboard, and wailed in a pitch that probably left my dogs eardrums vibrating for an hour.

    I lost a few drafts, but at least it’s mostly fixed and everything is okay again in the world.

    (The server was full. That’s all. Twitch, twitch).

    Moving onwards and upwards. To… Boeuf Bourguignon. French Beef stew with pearl onions and mushrooms. Rich and flavourful. It sounds fancy. It tastes pretty fancy. But it is very easy to make.

    The first key to an incredible stew is browning the ingredients. The meat especially. Browning the meat allows the sugars to caramelize, giving a deep flavour to the entire finished dish. In this stew, browning the mushrooms is equally important. You want a hot pan, and hot oil, and minimal disruption. Patience is essential to getting a good, browned surface – when it is ready to turn, the meat will release easily from the bottom.

    The second key is the long cooking time. You want to go low and slow, letting the flavours really develop and allowing the meat to become perfectly tender.

    The third key is proper seasoning. Before serving, taste a bit on a spoon. If the flavour is flat or bland, add a pinch more salt and taste again. The flavours will be bright and vibrant when the stew is properly seasoned.

    Pearl onions are adorable little pains in the butt. They take a long time to peel. A common tip is to toss them in boiling water for a minute to help ease them out of their skins. I’m not sure I found this particularly helpful. Then they’re just slippery little rascals. A good, sharp paring knife could do the trick better I think.

    Or you can buy them peeled, frozen. Apparently. I have seen it written in recipes, but they have never jumped out at me from our Canadian grocery store freezer shelves.

    I used potatoes in carrots in my stew, but traditional Boeuf Bourguignon usually plays host only to onions and mushrooms. I prefer less meat and more vegetable. You can double the beef and omit these extra veggies for a traditional version.

    See the browning on those succulent little mushrooms? That’s flavour. Delicious mushroom-y flavour. Absolutely worth the extra step.

    Boeuf Bourguignon

    If you prefer, you may use 3 cups of stock and omit the wine. It will no longer be Boeuf Bourguignon, but it will be a delicious stew!

    • 2 tbsp oil

    • 1 1/2 lbs beef cubes (stewing beef is fine)

    • 3 tbsp flour + 2 tbsp flour, separated

    • 1/4 tsp salt

    • 1/8 tsp pepper

    • 2 tbsp butter

    • 1 lb mushrooms, quartered

    • 3 cloves garlic, minced

    • 1 cup + 1 cup beef stock, separated

    • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled

    • 1 lb baby potatoes, halved if on the large side

    • 1 cup carrots, baby or chopped

    • several sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried

    • 1 cup red wine

    • salt and pepper, to taste

    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Set a dutch oven (or other oven-proof casserole with tight fitting lid) on the stove over medium-high heat. Place 3 tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a large ziploc bag; add beef and shake to coat. Heat oil till almost smoking, then add beef in batches (the cubes should not be crowded) and brown on all sides. You can tell if it is ready to turn by gently pushing with your tongs – it will release easily when properly browned. Set browned beef aside on a plate. Continue with next batch until all beef has been browned.

    2. Add butter to dutch oven (cleaning first with a paper towel only if the oil is burnt). When foaming subsides, add mushrooms (again, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding). Brown thoroughly and transfer to plate with beef.

    3. Add garlic to dutch oven and saute 1-2 minutes. Add 1 cup beef stock and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom to release any bits that are stuck on (they are full of flavour!). Whisk remaining 2 tbsp of flour into remaining 1 cup of beef stock until all lumps are gone. Return beef and mushrooms to pot, along with onions, potatoes, carrots, thyme, and flour/beef stock mixture and red wine. Cover and transfer to oven to cook until beef is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning.

    Serves 4 to 6.

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