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“You should only cook with wine you would drink!”
This always amuses me. What kind of wine do these Celebrichefs think I am drinking? I once saw Ina Garten (a.k.a. “Barefoot Contessa”) coo this line on her show as she proceed to pour a $30 bottle of white burgundy into her dish, and all I could think was, “Really, who spends that on a bottle of wine that they are going to boil?”.
Certainly, I would not. I appreciate fine wine as much as the next person (probably more, in truth), but making stew on a Tuesday night does not necessitate such a hefty price tag. I think the overuse of the cook-what-you-drink mantra comes from this strange product I see in the grocery store from time to time called “wine for cooking”. Wine for cooking? Gross. I guess the idea behind this stuff is that it supposedly gives a dish the flavor of wine without having to actually use the real stuff. This baffles me. If you do not want to consume wine, just skip this recipe and try a different version of some sort of beef stew. Wine for Cooking will not produce the same outcome as wine, so I ask you kindly to not ruin my recipe with it. Plus, it runs around $4/bottle and for this recipe you would need two of those small bottles, totaling more than the cost of the real wine I usually use. I find that a French red table wine fits the bill nicely for this particular recipe. Don’t pay more than $12 for it. I always use La Vielle Ferme‘s Red, as it is very reasonably priced, but good enough to drink alongside the final product.
Fair warning: this dish is fairly labor-intensive, but the reward is great. Luckily it freezes very well, so whenever I make it, I freeze the leftovers for a quick, delicious dinner at a later date.
Boeuf Bourguignon (beef burgundy) is classically served over boiled potatoes, but in a pinch you can serve it over mashed potatoes, rice, or a nice thick ribbon egg noodle.
- 1/3 lb thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 2 1/2 lb beef for stew cut into 3/4″ cubes, patted dry with paper towels
- 1 lb baby carrots
- 3/4 lb fresh pearl onions, peeled
- 1 lb mushrooms, halved
- 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 cups red wine
- 1 – 2 cups beef stock
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup flour
Combine the flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, and toss the cubes of beef in the mixture, shaking off the excess.
Starting with a cold dutch oven on the stove top, put the bacon in the dutch oven and turn the stove top to medium heat. Cook the bacon until it is crisp, then remove it from the pan, leaving 1 – 2 tablespoons of bacon grease left in the bottom of the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high.
Add the floured beef cubes to the pan and brown on all sides. I had to do this in four batches to make sure I didn’t overcrowd the pan. Your dutch oven will look like a mess during this process. If you are anything like I am, you will begin wondering how it will ever get clean again. Don’t worry, the stew will turn all of the brown bits stuck to the bottom and sides to deliciousness in a few hours.
Once all of the beef is browned, remove it from the dutch oven and set it aside with the cooked bacon.. Turn the heat down to medium/medium-low. Add the carrots and onions, stirring to make sure they are thoroughly coated by the bits and scraps left in the pan from the beef for 3 – 4 minutes.
Add the beef and bacon back to the pan, plus the garlic, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and tomato paste. Add the wine, and then enough beef broth (anywhere from 1 – 2 cups depending on the dimensions of your dutch oven) to cover the other ingredients. Give it all a good stir to combine, and bring it to a low boil. Put the lid on your dutch oven, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Stir in the mushrooms, put the cover back on the pot, and simmer for another 45 minutes.
Now, remove the dutch oven from the heat, and strain its contents so that the liquid is left in the dutch oven and the solids are set aside in a different vessel of some sort. Use this opportunity to pick out the sticks left from the herbs, which have by now released all of their flavor into the dish, including the bay leaves.
Put the dutch oven back on the stove top and bring the liquids to a boil. Boil down until the sauce reduces by about half. This is not a precise science, as the amount of liquid added earlier makes a difference in how much liquid will be left in the pot at this point. The best plan here is to carefully taste the liquid each time it boils down by about a 1/4 of its volume, and stop reducing it when it begins to have less of a thin liquid taste on the tongue and more of a thick silkiness. Another test is to stick a [clean] spoon in the sauce, stir it around, remove the spoon, and flip it over. If the sauce runs off of the back of the spoon cleanly, it is too thin. If it coats the back of the spoon, it is perfect!
Once the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency, turn off the heat, return the other ingredients to the pot, and stir to coat them in the sauce.