Deconstructed Beef Bourguignon

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on January 19, 2014

Decontructed Beef Bourguignon, My trip to France in 2013 allowed me to experience some classic French dishes that I had only read about in the past, and one of these delightful dishes was the soulful and comforting boeuf (beef) bourguignon.

If you ever have a chance to visit France, my recommendation to you is to get yourself a great GPS, rent a car and drive around the French countryside. It is an experience you will never forget. I find myself yearning to revisit the pastoral scenery of the back roads that are lined with beautiful wildflowers and rustic farmhouses. You will pass acres of farmland and vineyards, and if you stop by, you can also meet the hard working people who live here and cultivate this land. These farms were responsible for creating lovely dishes like beef bourguignon– an easy dish that provided sustenance for the farm hands responsible for maintaining the land.
As I drove through the countryside, I could just envision the stoves in these charming farm houses whose stoves were loaded up with cooking pots filled with leftovers from the day before. A simple meal that was allowed to bubble away throughout the morning to provide a warm and hearty lunchtime meal.

Although this delicious dish was created with practicality in mind, its simplicity does not take away from how truly delicious it really is. Over the years, it has been reproduced and written about by many noteworthy chefs, and even documented as a classic in Julia Child’s famous compilation titled, Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

The true beauty of beef bourguignon is in the simplicity of its composition — the union of a good beef sirloin, bacon, mushrooms and petite onions that simmer away in huge pots for several hours to develop the richly layered flavor that is complimented with red wine and herbs. When ready, it is served in a home style fashion over delicately buttered noodles— this glorious result is both familiar and comforting.

Beef bourguignon is not very different from a beef stew or even beef stroganoff without the sour cream, but I will say, that the French are masters at creating an unsurpassed depth of flavor through a layering of these simple ingredients.

It was a pleasure preparing this dish a few times as I researched its composition for myself. I love the resulting softness of all the ingredients and the rich broth that develops in the end that just melts right into the noodles. For me, this is comfort food at its best– but I know that others may crave some textural differences, and perhaps find this to be very one note.

My goal with this post was to re-create the traditional into a modern day version that included some crispy and smoky elements that further enhance the enjoyment of the dish. The added crispy bacon on top of the noodles instead of being added to the stew really helps bring it all together– as do the crispy onions. For those of you who loved it before, you will love it even more now—and for those who are trying it for the first time—I am sure that you shall discover a new found respect for these classic, farm to table meals.  

Deconstructed Beef Bourguignon

2-3 pounds of a well marbled sirloin, cut into small cubes
10 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 pounds of thick bacon, cut into small pieces
2 medium onions (pearl onions are traditional)
2 large onions, finely sliced for crispy onion garnish
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 whole garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
S&P to taste
½-1 teaspoon of thyme** this offers a strong flavor, start with a little and add more as needed
2 pounds of mushrooms , finely chop 8ounces of this and slice the rest   
2 cups red wine
About 6-8 cups of beef stock  **
2 pounds of a good quality egg noodle
1 to 1 ½ sticks butter
2 tablespoons parsley, finely diced

NOTE: I did not have beef stock on hand, so I added enough filtered water to cover the beef, 2 roasted marrow bones, 2 cloves of garlic (which dissolved into the liquid), carrots, celery and 1 whole medium onion into the pot to simmer away with the beef. Then I removed them after they had softened and allowed the mixture to continue simmering for another hour. This is what you see in my photos but you can bypass this and use a high quality, pre-made beef stock.

In a large stock pot, add the cubed pieces of bacon over moderate heat and render out all of the fat. Once they are crispy, remove them from the pot. Traditionally, all of the other items are now sautéed in the bacon fat and then removed onto a plate only to be added back into the pot once the stock is added. If you are going to do it this way, make sure to sauté everything separately. This helps to develop the flavor and is the ideal way to do it but does require a little extra time.

On this particular morning, I did not have too much time– so after cooking and removing the bacon, I added one finely chopped medium onions and the chopped garlic cloves and sautéed them until they were translucent. I then added the finely chopped mushrooms, and further cooked this down until the mushrooms almost disappeared.

I then added my beef cubes that I dredged in 6 tablespoons of flour, and sautéed them until they were all cooked through. Make sure they are small, bit sized pieces. Once the beef cubes were cooked through, I added the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and cooked that for a few minutes to caramelize the flavor of all of the ingredients even further. Then, before adding anything else, I de-glazed the pot with the 2 cups of red wine and then allowed the alcohol to cook out for a few minutes.

Then I added enough filtered water to cover the beef cubes. In my case it was about 6 cups, and because I did not have readymade beef stock, I roasted a few marrow bones and added that along with a large carrot, 1 whole medium onion, 1 large celery rib, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of thyme and 2 whole cloves of garlic. I allowed the liquid to come to a boil, and then reduced it to a very low simmer and covered the pot. Once it is simmering, you cannot walk away and forget it. You must remember to come back and stir it every 15 minutes or so, so that the ingredients do not burn on the bottom. The flour from the dredged beef cubes along with the tomato paste will help thicken the broth. It is not traditional to add chopped carrots or celery to it, although many people do.

After about an hour, the liquid had reduced and I removed the softened vegetables (onion, carrot, celery). The garlic had dissolved, so I did not worry about removing that. I left the roasted marrow bones in there for the entire process and we enjoyed them in the end. This is one of those items that will continue to simmer for 2-4 hours…the longer it simmers the better it is.

When you are ready, it is time to make the noodles. Follow the directions on the package, and drain the noodles into a colander. Add the butter to the pot, and after it has stopped foaming, which means that all of the water in the butter has evaporated, add in the noodles. The important point to remember here is that the noodles should be coated with butter and not swimming in it, so too much butter is not a good thing. Right before serving, add in the 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley.

As you are approaching the time to serve your dish, sauté the sliced mushrooms in either some more bacon fat or more traditionally a little extra butter. Once they are all lovely and golden, removed them to a plate and keep warm.

Lastly, peel and cut the last 2 large onions in half. Slice them into thin pieces and then dredge in the remaining 4 tablespoons of flour. Fry these in hot oil until golden brown, and lightly salt them. Remove them onto a paper lined plate and then place them on a rack in a warm oven to stay crispy.

When ready to serve, add the noodles to out bowl along with a nice ladle full of the stew and the sauce. Top with the sautéed mushrooms, crispy bacon and crispy breaded onion strings. Serve with a great salad and an even better glass of wine.

Deconstructed Beef Bourguignon, www.goodfoodgourmet

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