Friday, December 6, 2013

Beef Bourguignon... No More Excuses!!

Everyone talks about Beef Bourguignon like it's the "Holy Grail" of recipes.  Most folks take a glance at the recipe and declare it to be, "Not worth the trouble for a simple beef stew" but I assure you... it's well worth the trouble, and then some!  Beef Stew is similar to Beef Bourguignon in the same way that the banquet room at your local American Legion Hall is "similar to" the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria.

Note the Subtle Difference Between the Banquet Halls
To make the best "beef stew" that you, or anyone you've ever served have ever tasted, you'll need to crack your knuckles and jump into a deeply flavored, diversely textured, decadently seasoned Beef Bourguignon!

You will need:
  • 1 "Strong Blurp" of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2lb of thickly sliced bacon, chopped into smaller chunks or bits
  • 3lbs of Chuck Roast, cut into 1" cubes
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1+ pound of FRESH carrots (not the "carrot nibblers" that you put in your kid's lunch pack), washed, peeled, and thickly cut on a bias
  • 2 Small Red Onions, diced
  • 4 Cloves of Fresh Garlic, mashed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Quality Bourbon
  • 1 Entire Bottle of excellent Pinot Noir
  • 1 or 2 cups of Beef Stock (or Consume')
  • 1/2 Small Can of Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 Stick of Butter
  • 3 Tbsp of Bread Flour
  • 1.5lbs of whole Pearl Onions (blanched and peeled)
  • 1lb of your favorite woodland mushrooms, thickly sliced
Before we get started, click the bowl of Beef Bourguignon shown here (from my kitchen) and look at the full sized image.  This dish is all about balance.  Trust me when I tell you that there is just the right amount of everything in this dish.  If  you start substituting, things can/will go downhill in a hurry and I think that's where people go wrong.  If you don't have a good Pinot, don't just toss in a bottle of Sutter Home White Zinfandel or (gag) a Rose'!  If you don't have the time to blanch and peel a bunch of pearl onions, then wait until you do.  I promise, you'll keep the first bite of this concoction in your mouth for a long time as your brain explodes trying to savor all of the different flavors here, and they work together like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, so... to begin:

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees (yes, TWO hundred fifty).

For this recipe, it will be well worth your time to chop/dice/prep everything ahead of time and to keep it organized. In other words, put your best Mise en Place skills to work here!

Get your big Dutch Oven out and put it on the stove.  Crank the heat to Medium High and pour in a couple of Tbsp of good Olive Oil.  Enough to just cover the bottom... now add your bacon and cook/stir it for about 20-30 minutes to render some bacon fat.  MMmmmmm, bacon fat!  Now, carefully take out the bacon, leaving as much fat in the pan that you can.  Keep the bacon safe in a separate bowl (you honestly didn't think I'd have you toss it out, did you?).

Open the Pinot Noir, to let it breath, and pour yourself a small glass.  Savor this glass because the entire contents of the rest of the bottle will ultimately go into the dish (more on this, later).

Season your Beef Chuck cubes, and add just enough of them to cover the bottom of your hot dutch oven.  Roll them around in the bacon fat until they're brown on all sides, then carefully remove them to the same safe-house where you stashed your bacon.  Repeat this until all of the beef is browned on the outside.

By now, there should be some smoky bits of bacon and beef stuck to the bottom of the pot; no problem!  Dump in your carrots and yellow onions and stir them together to cook and to add flavor to the fond ("Fond" means "bottom" in French, and refers to the sticky bits at the bottom of the pan).  Let them cook, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes or so.  Add the garlic and stir it in toward the end so it doesn't burn.  Now; take hold of your Bourbon Whiskey.  Take a sip of the Whiskey, to fortify yourself for two things:
  1. You're about to make fire.
  2. You're about to pour an entire bottle of Pinot Noir into what is essentially a "Beef Stew" and you don't want to be caught crying about it!
Pour the Bourbon into the pot and stir.  Be careful,  because the alcoholic vapor may catch fire!  No big deal, just douse the flames with the lid from your Dutch Oven.  Do not skip the alcohol because there are gobs of "alcohol soluble" flavors here (particularly in the onions) and you'll lose a lot of flavor depth if you do.  Stir the Bourbon around to deglaze the pot, and let it bubble for awhile until the alcohol has done it's work and has mostly evaporated from the pot.

Dump all of the beef and bacon back into the pot and give it a good stir.  Gird your loins and pour the entire remaining contents of your Pinot Noir into the pot.  Do it.  Don't argue, don't whine, and don't make excuses, just do it.  Julia Child would be proud!  Take your beef stock and pour in just enough to barely almost cover the tip-tops of the beef cubes.  Stir in the tomato paste and bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Once you have it simmering, put the lid on and place the entire Dutch Oven into your bigger oven for at least 2.5 to 3 hours.  Great things will happen in there.

When you have about 20 minutes to go, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a saucepan and slowly saute the mushrooms over Medium to Medium High heat.  Let them cook down for 20 minutes or so.  With 5 minutes remaining, melt the last two Tbsp of butter stir it together with the flour in a separate pan or microwave safe bowl.  Heat and stir them together until they're fully combined into a roux.  A roux like this is, hands down, the best way to thicken a dish or gravy!

Pull the Bourgy out of the oven and remove the lid.  It will be hot and it will still be simmering!  Stir in your roux, then stir in the mushrooms.  Add your Pearl Onions (you thought I forgot about those, didn't you)!  Bring the entire stew to a boil (again), then reduce to simmer for another 30 minutes or so, and stir it occasionally.

Serve it up in a nice ceramic bowl with a hunk of sourdough bread and a glass of good red table wine.  Personally, I like to go off by myself somewhere to eat this, in front of the fireplace with my fuzzy slippers on, the lights low, and some Mozart playing subtly in the background.  Every bite of this dish is one to be savored, and when you try it, you'll know why you spent 5 hours dealing with it earlier in the day!

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