Yep, this ongoing deep-freeze, by Oregon standards, inspired another project meal. This is the classic boeuf bourguignon from, I believe, page 435 of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” I omitted the pearl onions, but most everything else was followed to the letter of the recipe.
One other change was I elected to brown the bacon, cubed meat, and vegetables in my trusty cast iron frying pan and then transfer to my braiser. I seem to get better results browning meat in cast iron. Yeah, the Le Creuset braiser is cast iron coated in enamel, and I could be totally wrong, but it just seems beef browns better in raw cast iron.
Prep your station
Make sure the knives are clean and sharp, get out the wine (for the cook and the recipe), clear some counter space. Preheat oven to 450. Slice one or two carrots, slice one large onion. Set aside.
Cube the beef and carefully pat dry with paper towels. Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces.
Lightly brown the bacon.
Turn on the stove vent fan. Working in batches brown the meat in the bacon fat. This step is critical to developing the signature flavor of this dish. You want the meat well-browned on all side, but don’t go nuts. The meat I selected was extremely lean and I went too far with some of the cubes resulting in hard edges that made the finished dish uneven. Small mistake, but noticeable. Plus you can see in the above photo I didn’t get all the sides browned. Browning meat is a skill I need to work on.
Brown the onion and carrots in the beef/bacon fat.
Transfer meat and veggies to the braiser. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp flour, toss to coat. Place uncovered braiser in the oven for four minutes. Remove from oven, toss again and return to oven for four more minutes.
Remove from oven, reduce temperature to 325, add wine (recipe calls for 3 cups, I add the whole bottle), herbs and tomato paste. Add beef broth, if needed, to just cover the meat.
Cover the braiser and return to oven for 3 hours. Check at the three-hour point. Add broth if it’s looking dry. You want a large amount of liquid because the resulting sauce is just about the best part of this whole process. I let this most recent attempt simmer in a moderate oven, 265, for 5 hours.
When nearly ready to serve, remove braiser from oven, empty contents into a colander or sieve placed over a pot or bowl. Return the stew to the braiser, cover and keep warm.
Put collected sauce in a pan and bring to a very low simmer, skimming fat as it rises. Taste the sauce. Add beef broth if it seems a bit too intense.
When most of the fat has been skimmed, place the sauce in the warm oven. I leave a baking steel in my oven to keep things warm. The steel retains heat heroically and is perfect for keeping things warm prior to serving.
If you’re planning on a starch to serve alongside the stew, get it going now. I opted for rice since we’ve been eating, relatively, a lot of pasta lately.
Slice the mushrooms (quarter rather than slice if they’re small) and quickly sauté in unsalted butter. Work in batches. Don’t crowd the ‘shrooms.
For serving, we use large “bowl-plates,” arranging the mushrooms and starch around the edge, placing a big scoop of stew in the center, then drizzling sauce over the whole thing.
Sadly there are no photos of the finished dish because once it was plated we sort of devoured it. While this dish might be best described as “brown” it is comfort food incarnate, pairing brilliantly with a bottle of Cliff Creek’s Super Tuscan.