Bulldog Cuisine – Classic Boef Bourguignon

If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen.

When I was in high school (back in the Jurassic Era, Nicole) the curriculum required that students take two years of a foreign language, with the choices being Spanish, Italian or French. My first inclination was Spanish, seeing as how it is spoken by most of the western hemisphere. As the proud son of a French immigrant, however, my father prevailed upon me to take French, arguing that it was the language of both culture and diplomacy. Nevermind the fact that his perspective was a quarter century out of date and even in the 1970s, increasingly fewer people spoke the language. Nowadays, the only earnest Francophones may be found either in France or Quebec.

And the international language of diplomacy? Heh…it’s also the international language of air traffic control, of commerce and even of culture. And that language is…good, old American English.

As it turns out my French teacher was pissy bitch whose biological clock had been ringing its alarm for several years and ours was a relationship of hate at first sight. I barely passed the course and while Bulldog speaks no conversational French today, he certainly speaks culinary French – in this case, Boef Bourguignon:

Beef bourguignon is one of many examples of peasant dishes being slowly refined into haute cuisine. Most likely, the particular method of slowly simmering the beef in wine originated as a means of tenderizing cuts of meat that would have been too tough to cook any other way.

Over time, the dish became a standard of French cuisine. The recipe most people still follow to make an authentic beef bourguignon was first described by Auguste Escoffier. That recipe, however, has undergone subtle changes, owing to changes in cooking equipment and available food supplies. Mastering the Art of French Cooking describes the dish, Sauté de Boeuf à la Bourguignonne, as “certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.”

I agree. This recipe will yield the most incredible beef stew you will ever taste. Given the use of red wine as a tenderizing agent, I’ve no doubt this recipe will lend itself superbly to venison.

Ingredients

8 slices of extra thick cut bacon (do not use hickory smoked or flavored bacon)
3 lb. chuck roast (fat removed and cut into chunks – see below)
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
3 cups hearty burgundy wine (Gallo works perfectly for this recipe)
2 cups beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves minced garlic
½ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
18-24 pearl onions
1 tbsp butter, salted
1 lb. fresh button mushrooms
2 tbsp light olive oil
2 tbsp butter, salted
3 tbsp flour mixed with 3 tbsp butter
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Simmer bacon in 1-½ quarts of water. After 10 minutes, remove bacon strips from water and dry with paper towel. While bacon is simmering, cut chuck roast into large 2 inch cubes. Remove as much visible fat as possible and reserve. Thoroughly dry the beef chunks with a paper towel to remove all moisture or they will not properly brown.

Place a large (at least 12″) saute pan over medium heat and saute the beef fat until it is rendered (about 10 minutes or so), then remove and dispose any browned pieces that remain. Saute the bacon strips in the fat for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Let drain on a paper towel, cut into ½ inch pieces and place in a large ovenproof stew pot or Dutch oven.

Turn the flame up to high for the saute pan and heat the fat until very hot but not smoking. Add the beef chunks a few at a time and DO NOT OVERCROWD THE PAN. Saute the beef until well browned on all sides and reserve to the stew pot with the bacon. After all of the beef has been browned, reduce heat to medium-low and saute the sliced carrot and onion gently for about 5 minutes. Remove and add to the pot with the beef and the bacon.

Pour off the fat from the saute pan and turn the heat back up to high until the pan is very hot. Pour the wine into the pan and, using a wooden spatula, scrape the bottom to help deglaze it. Pour the hot wine into the pot and add the beef stock, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme and garlic. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cover with lid and place in oven at 325 degrees F. for 3 hours. The liquid should be at a bare simmer – not boiling.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Here is an easy way to peel the onions: bring a large pot of water to the boil and then add all of the onions. When the water returns to the boil, turn off the heat and let the onions sit for about 30 seconds. Quickly transfer them to a bowl. Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the bottom of the onion as close to the root end as possible. The skin should peel off easily. Then pierce the root end with the knife so the onion doesn’t fall apart when it cooks.

Transfer all of the onions to a small saucepan and pour in enough water to cover them halfway. Add 1 tbsp butter and ¼ tsp salt and bring to an even simmer for about 25 minutes. Drain onions and set aside.

Wash the mushrooms in cold water to remove any dirt or sand. Dry completely with paper towels. Trim the stems down to the level of the caps and then quarter the caps. If the caps are larger than 2 inches in diameter, cut into several wedge-shaped sections.

In a saute pan on medium heat add olive oil and butter. When the butter stops foaming, raise flame to high and add the mushrooms. Let them sit for a couple of minutes and then stir or give the pan a shake to lightly brown on all sides. Remove pan from flame and set aside.

The beef will be ready when you can easily insert and remove a fork from the largest piece. Remove from the oven to the stove top. Place a large sieve or fine colander over a large sauce pan and pour the contents of the stew pot into it to allow the cooking liquid to drain into the sauce pan. Remove the bay leaf and return the beef, bacon and veggies to the stew pot.

Mix 3 tbsp softened butter with 3 tbsp flour to form a paste. Whisk the paste into the cooking liquid over a medium flame until it thickens and continue whisking for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust for salt, then add ¼ tsp pepper. Add the onions and the mushrooms to the stew pot and then pour in the sauce. Stir all the ingredients to thoroughly incorporate and then simmer on a low flame for 10 minutes.

Serve with boiled new potatoes, a Romaine lettuce salad with red wine vinaigrette and, of course, hunks of warm French bread to sop up any remaining gravy.

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