Main Course, Soups

Boeuf Bourguignon

11 Comments 10 November 2010

I love the movie Julie and Julia. And this may sound cheesy, but after watching it a few times, I felt like I could finally get up the nerve to start a food blog. I identify a lot with the Julie Powell in the movie. Life has often felt to me as hers did, mainly the part about struggling to find oneself. We all go through it in some form or fashion. The movie just spoke to me about not being afraid to do the things you really want to do, the things you enjoy doing or want to enjoy more. Let’s face it, most of us have to fight tooth and nail to carve out time anymore for the things we like to do for ourselves. Raise your hand if you’re a mom who makes sure all her ducklings are happy before you’ll settle down and read that book for pleasure, or take a shopping trip with the girls. Hey, it’s what we do, right? It goes with the territory, but the territory ought to be big enough for us as well.

Even my husband likes the movie, although the last time I jokingly cruised Starz to see if it was on – again – he groaned and said he didn’t want to see it again for a while. Luckily for him, it wasn’t on that night. But I love it, I so do. One thing hubby did like was the look of the boeuf bourguignon that Julie makes for an anticipated visit from Julia Child’s editor. He all but begged me to make it and many a weekend the question was asked: Is this *the* weekend? No? *sad face*

So I bought a very nice cast iron dutch oven and prepared for the day when my sis and I would tackle the premiere boeuf bourguignon recipe – Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon, mind you. I can’t tell you how often I now say, “Pretty good….but not great,” in a Julia-esque voice. Despite hubby’s anti-stance on the movie now due to many viewings, he does crack up at that line.

Boeuf Bourguignon

The recipe suggests first a rump roast, as it’s a nice and lean cut. There are alternate suggestions, though, so don’t worry there’s plenty of options.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Confession: You’re supposed to use a “chunk” of bacon that has the rind on. I’m only guessing, but maybe this was the only way Julia could get bacon back in the day? Or it was an option at least? We just skipped the step where you boil it first and went straight to the slight crisping of the bacon. Not too crisp, though.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Then you dry the meat chunks with a paper towel – it really does help to do this, as is noted in the movie! Look how purty that browning is going.

Boeuf Bourguignon

After the meat, it’s a snap to brown up the vegetables. They take on the rich leavings of the meat like a kid to candy.

Boeuf Bourguignon

After that, you add the meat back in, as well as the veggies, a few spices and….

Boeuf Bourguignon

…almost an entire bottle of red wine. French red wine. I went to the trouble of seeking out a French burgundy and,yes, I think it was worth it. Stew, get your glug on.

Boeuf Bourguignon

While the stew is coming together in all its glory in the oven, you’re going to play with these guys. Well, saute, not play, actually. This is seriously tasty business.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Are you getting the idea?

Boeuf Bourguignon

After about 45 minutes of simmering in beef broth and white wine and spices, this is what you’ll later be adding to the stew. The onions are sweet and savory and attackable.

Boeuf Bourguignon

THEN you’ll be making these a little closer to time for the stew to come out. These fellas won’t take nearly as long as the onions. But both, no matter the time and effort, are divine. You must make them.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Anyone remember, “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!” from the movie? Yep, once again, totally true.

Boeuf Bourguignon

When you take the lid off the dutch oven, it almost looks like the dish has been wilted into submission, but then you spoon it into a serving bowl and it comes alive. And you want to attack it. And eat it. And never stop. The smells of this cooking alone will induce these sensations, albeit in a more minor sense. Let’s just put it this way: hubby says I’m no longer allowed to make “regular” beef stew. I’d say that’s a ringing endorsement.

Boeuf Bourguignon

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, copywrited by Alfred A. Knopf publishing

Special Supplies:
  • 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep
  • Slotted spoon
  • 6 ounces bacon
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind
  • 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
  • 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs
The directions below are pretty much verbatim from the original recipe, with a few notes tacked on by us:

Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry. (this was part where we just skipped to sauteing the bacon since we didn’t have the rind.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat. (We found that we didn’t have any fat left over to pour out – win.)

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered (as in just peek-aboo-ing from underneath the liquid). Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon and rind, if you used the ring. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours (I wasn’t sure how we were supposed to regulate the heat, we just left it alone at 325 degrees). The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed. (recipes follow)

When the melt is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. (Why? Why wash out the casserole and rid it all those cooked lovelies and tasties? We did not. Also, only reason I could see to use a siev was to catch all those crumbled bay leaf bits. I say leave the leaf whole next time and just fish it out, no sieve needed.) Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce (We literally had no fat to skim off. I think this is because the rump roast we used was nice and lean and we trimmed off all but about 5% of the fat that was on one side of it. So it’s almost worth it there to go with a rump roast.). Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Sautéed Mushrooms

  • 2 Tb butter
  • 1 Tb oil
  • ½ lb. fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
  • Optional: 1 to 2 Tb minced shallots or green onions
  • Salt and pepper

Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Toss the shallots or green onions with the mushrooms. Sauté over moderate heat for 2 minutes.

Sautéed mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed. Season to taste just before serving.

Brown-Braised Onions

  • 18 to 24 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter
  • 1½ Tb butter
  • 1½ Tb oil
  • ½ cup of brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine, or water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs,
  • ½ bay leaf, and
  • ¼ tsp thyme,  tied in cheesecloth

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly. (This is actually a very fun part of cooking this entire meal!)

Then either braise them as follows:

Pour in the liquid (we ended up using 1/4 cup stock and 1/4 cup white wine – yum), season to taste, and add the herb bouquet (we couldn’t find the cheesecloth and just chucked the herbs right into the pan). Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated (um, our liquid didn’t evaporate, so we just threw that liquid in with the stew liquid – yum again). Remove herb bouquet. Serve them as they are, or follow one of the suggestions at the end of the recipe.

Or bake them as follows:

Transfer the onions and their sautéing fat to a shallow baking dish or casserole just large enough to hold them in one layer. Set uncovered in upper third of a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, turning them over once or twice. They should be very tender, retain their shape, and be a nice golden brown. Remove herb bouquet.

The onions may be cooked hours in advance, and reheated before serving.


Yes, folks, this is a long recipe. It’s going to take you about three hours total to make it, but most of that is the stew cooking in the oven, so there will be down time for you to relax and read a big fat book or – shudder – do some laundry if you must. What else is there to say except: bon appetit!

ETA November 2014: I just made this for the who-knows-how-manyth-time and instead of going to all the trouble with the braised onions, I drained two jars of pearl onions (they were in water) and added those to the stew about an hour before it was done. Over time I’ve grown less fond of the work that goes with using the fresh pearl onions and while I can’t ever find them frozen and ready-to-use, I sometimes can find the jarred ones and highly recommend them as a time saver (and fingertip saver – it stings something awful peeling the fresh ones sometimes).

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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11 Comments so far

  1. compostingathome says:

    This really did turn out SOOOO well. Definitely the ultimate beef stew, and so worth the time and effort. Glad we tried this one. =)

  2. KMont says:

    I agree. I want some more. Right now. It’s only just past 10:0 a.m., too.

  3. christine says:

    That looks so good … and so much work. I’ll just come to your house for dinner the next time you make it.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Will this recipe be enough for a dinner party of eight?

    • KMont says:

      I don’t often do dinner parties, so I may not be the best person to answer this question, but I’d probably be cautious myself and do a recipe and a half, if not double the recipe if it will be the main entree item. Definitely if you want there to be enough for seconds. It can depend on how big an appetite people have, too. I made it once for three people and it was pretty much gone at the end of the meal. My brother-in-law may have just really liked it, though.

      When I make it, I use about a 6.5 quart dutch oven. When it goes into the oven to cook, that dutch oven is at least 2/3 full of ingredients. When it’s done, it’s cooked down to less than half the capacity of the pot. And that’s with adding more veggies than Julia Childs’ original recipe calls for, too.

      • Carolyn says:

        Thanks so much for your quick response! Next question would be ~ can I make this a day before a party?

        • KMont says:

          No problem! I hope that too long response helped lol.

          As for your second question, yes! When we’re lucky enough to have leftovers, it tastes just as good the next day (or even two days later if you can wait that long). If you leave it in the dutch oven, just take it out about an hour before you reheat it to let some of the chill come off the pot and the stew. Just bring it up to a simmer right on the stovetop.

  5. Thanks for the post. I also loved Julie & Julia, bought both of Julia’s books (original & vol ii) and have sworn to cook Boeuf Bourguignon someday… which I think will be this week. The photos were helpful in setting the whole process in my mind. Wish me luck!

    • KMont says:

      I do wish you much luck! It seems like a long and complicated recipe, but once you make it, it will become more simple in your mind and you’ll want to make it again and again. I know it’s a long post to go through, but check out some of the time-saving tips I’ve used over the years if you’re game for them. I hope you enjoy it and have fun!

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