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Friday, January 07, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon & La Joie de Vivre

After Julie and Julia, the whole blogosphere exploded with countless versions of Boeuf Bourguignon, which proves that we food bloggers are not here to reinvent the wheel, but to bring forward delicious recipes that make us happy. Blogging is about sharing and every dish has a story of its own.
I was reading the other day that BB started as a rustic, bucolic dish that French peasants used to eat. They would boil the tougher bits of beef for hours, add red wine and have it with boiled potatoes. 

Making BB could be a little intimidating, even its name is a challenge with all the vowels and the silent second "g" :), but basically it's a wholesome, delicious family-binding dish that is relatively easy to make.

Type of cuisine: French/traditional "cuisine des terroirs"

Difficulty: medium

Time: 2- 2.5 hours

As I only made the mashed potatoes and boiled the sprouts, and Mike cooked the most delicious BB, I asked him to write today's entry, as a guest writer

Mike is my husband, BTW (and he taught me how to cook) :)

About the (perfect) mashed potatoes you can possibly make and have without feeling guilty, I will blog some other time. 


Michael Waters

guest writer

Boeuf Bourguignon is, as we might expect, French.  Especially delicious on cold winter’s evenings, this stew of tender beef braised in red wine with onions and carrots can be served either as a special family dish or as a main course for a dinner party.  Apart from its tastiness, it offers a number of advantages: it can easily be prepared in advance, all the ingredients are readily available in most places, it actually improves over time, and it can be easily reheated without any loss of quality or taste whatsoever.
There is no one definitive recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, and every cook has his or her own particular favourite variation.   The essential elements remain the same, however, and basically involve cubes of lean beef slow-cooked in wine for about two hours, some vegetables added, and flavoured with herbs such as sage and thyme.
This is my own favourite way of cooking BB, and the following quantity serves four.   I find the cooking to be as savoury an experience as the eating.  And drinking the accompanying wine, of course!

·         1 tbsp oil (I use olive oil, but grapeseed or sunflower oil are equally good)
·         1 small onion, finely chopped
·         2 large (or 3 small) cloves garlic, crushed or finely grated
·         2 thin slices of cooked bacon or ham, cut into narrow strips of 2.5cm
·         1kg of lean beef, cut into cubes of 3 cm
·         1/2 tbsp chopped thyme
·         1/4 tbsp chopped sage
·         1 tbsp flour
·         1 tbsp concentrated tomato paste (diluted in about 2 tbsp water)
·         2 cups red wine
·         2 cups beef stock (or warm water with a beef-stock cube added to each cup)
·         Large pinch salt
·         ¼ tsp of ground black pepper
·         12 shallots, cut in half (or a large onion, sliced)
·          1 fresh carrot, chopped
·         1 knob butter (preferably unsalted)

In a large saucepan, fry the finely chopped onion, garlic and bacon in oil until slightly browned.  Stir in the beef cubes, sage and thyme, and fry until the beef is slightly browned.  Add the flour and stir until beef has become lightly coated all over.  Reduce the heat.
Stir in the tomato paste.  Gradually pour in the wine, stirring to make sure that any lumps formed by the flour are broken down.   Add beef stock, salt and pepper, and stir well.  Increase heat and bring to boil, keeping a close eye.
As soon as the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat immediately, and cover the pan tightly.  Simmer on low heat for approx one hour. 
Add sliced carrots, and stir gently.  If the liquid has reduced below the level of the meat cubes, top up with some water and stir lightly.  Replace cover.
After another half hour, stir in the shallots (or onion slices), replace the lid, and leave to simmer for another 20-30- minutes. Add the knob of butter just before serving.

Serves 4  
Total cooking time: 2 hours 15 minutes approx

Many questions have been asked about which wine to use for cooking.  In fact, it really doesn’t matter as long as it is red, and dry or medium dry.   It makes no difference to the overall flavour. Sherry or dessert wine (apart, possibly, from the cost) is usually too sweet and can ruin the dish.
If you wish, a cupful of lightly sautéed mushrooms (halved or sliced, depending on size) can be added to the dish about 15 minutes before serving.  I have also, on occasion, added sliced red pepper, about 20-25 minutes before serving.

To serve
This dish is traditionally eaten with boiled potatoes, but it also goes well with mashed potato or rice.  Camargue rice is especially delicious.  If this is not available, a mixture of regular long grain (you can also use Basmati) and wild rice makes an excellent accompaniment.  Vegetables ideal for serving are sweet green peas or chopped green beans.  Asparagus, when in season, is likewise a good accompaniment.

 Suitable wine accompaniment

This is a hearty dish, and the wine to go with it should be likewise.  

A full-bodied red with good depth is strongly suggested.  I live in 

Romania, where there is very good choice of quality local wines at 

most affordable prices.  My choice with this dish would be a 

Prahova Valley Feteasca Negra from Cramele Halewood, or a 

La Cetate Cabernet Sauvignon from Mehedinti.  For a special 

occasion, Prince Matei Merlot from Dealu Mare goes down very 

well.   Romanian wines are still pretty hard to get outside of 

Romania (I don’t understand why…maybe lack of marketing...or 

prejudice?) but there’s no shortage of choice in the word!  I would 

recommend a big wine from Bordeaux, Barolo (Italy), Navarra 

(Spain) or, a lovely red which I tasted recently, a Trapiche Malbec 

from Argentina

I hope this amazing dish will inspire you to try it over the weekend. It's a wintery classic that will soon become your piece de resistence and will remind you that life is beautiful.

xx Yolanda

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