Dear Food Geek, I've tried a lot of beef bourguignon recipes, but something always ends up not right. Sometimes the sauce falls flat or the vegetables turn to mush. Is there a recipe you like? - Carrie
After so much effort and time spent waiting, having a dish turn out mediocre can be really discouraging. This article from Serious Eats points out the key things that matter in a beef burgundy / boeuf bouguignon recipe, and then continues on to explain why it matters. You should definitely read it - it addresses the following things in detail:
- Choosing the right meat (and why chuck steaks are better than pre-cut stew meat)
- Quality and type of wine
- What matters for the sauce
- How to make the veggies perfect
I tried the Serious Eats recipe that follows from the article and it was the best recipe I've tried so far, out of 4 different recipes, including one from Jacques Pepin. What really made the Serious Eats recipe stand out for me, was the layers of flavor added to the sauce and the treatment of the final vegetables. All while not being overly fussy - I mean the dish requires some fuss, but they don't go overboard.
To make the sauce richer, they add in a small amount of browned carrots and onions, intended to be discarded later (or as one comment suggested, puree them into the sauce at the end). They also saute mushrooms, bite-sized carrot pieces and onions in bacon fat on the stove top, and add it to the stew to simmer and soak up more flavor for the last 30 minutes of cooking time.
The sauce has a lot of gelatin to thicken it without muddying the flavor from adding flour. This isn't a super thick sauce, but it isn't runny either. However, I put leftovers in the fridge and the next day it was literally a jello mold. But don't worry! Once you heat it up, it's back to its perfect consistency from the day before.
Below is my very slightly adapted version of the Serious Eats recipe. I added extra carrots and onions, and cut the onion that goes into the sauce in half, but that's all I changed.
- 3 lbs whole boneless beef chuck roast cut into 3 steaks
- kosher salt & pepper
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- 2 Tbs flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 4 packets unflavored gelatin 3 Tbs + 1 tsp
- 1 carrot
- ½ yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- ¼ cup brandy optional
- 1 bottle dry red wine
- 2 tsp fish sauce or 1 anchovy filet
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ lb bacon
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms
- 5 large carrots
- 1 lb pearl onions
- Parsley for ganish
Preheat & Prep
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Pour broth into a medium bowl and sprinkle 1 packet of gelatin over the top. Once dissolved, sprinkle the next packet, and so on.
- Dry beef steaks and season with salt & pepper.
- Split 1 carrot in half. Peel onion, clean the root ends, then cut in half through the root end.
- Pull the thyme leaves off the stem and chop the parsley.
Cook the steak
- Heat the oil in a dutch oven on the stove top, over medium high. Once hot, cook steaks to brown on both sides (cook 1 at a time depending on size of your dutch oven), about 5 minutes a side. Make sure the browned bits that develop don't burn - turn down the heat if needed, to prevent burning.
- Remove steak and set aside to cool.
Make the sauce
- Add split carrot halves and split yellow onion to the dutch oven. Turn occasionally, browning it, about 4 minutes. Add in garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Add brandy, if using, and cook for 2 minutes to boil off alcohol.
- Add the stock-gelatin mixture, wine, fish sauce, soy sauce, and herbs* to the dutch oven. Bring to a simmer.
- Cut beef into 2-inch pieces and toss with 2 Tbs of flour. Add beef and juices to dutch oven.
- Transfer to oven and partially cover it. (Move on to the next section, making the vegetables).
- Cook for about 1.5 hours and check on beef tenderness. When it's almost done, you'll add the prepped veggies from the next section.
- Prep: chop mushrooms and carrots into bit sized pieces. Leave the onions whole (cut off root end).
- Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat, until fat is rendered, about 6-8 minutes. Remove bacon, but leave the fat.
- Add mushrooms to the fat and cook until browned, about 12 minutes. If pan dries out, add some oil.
- Add diced carrots and onions, then cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. They don't need to be soft, just browned.
Combine and Finish
- About 30 minutes before the stew is done (use your crystal ball!), add the prepped veggies to finish cooking and soak up some flavor. Cook for about 30 minutes longer.
* This dish can get salty, so use low sodium broth and only add extra salt towards the end, after you can taste the sauce.
Nutrition for Boeuf Bourguignon / Beef Burgundy
- Servings: Depending on the crowd, it will serve 6-8. If you have a larger crowd, add a few extra carrots or mushrooms in. If you have a smaller crowd, maybe cut the meat down to 2.5 lbs.
- Starch: this can be served a lot of ways: with roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, egg noodles, over rice, or over sliced french bread. This is not included in the nutritional information.
- Salt: I used low sodium broth and 2 anchovy filets. The sauce wasn't too salty, but it was close. This is with no additional salt added, other than salting the meat before browning it. I suggest keeping your salt to a minimum as well, until towards the end. Then add salt if you find it necessary.
As I mentioned earlier, this beef burgundy recipe comes from the hard working people at Serious Eats. I like extra vegetables in my version, so I added those in, but otherwise, the meat of it is unchanged 😉