Salt, Time, Smoke

French Food for the Soul-Beef Bourguignon

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I told you I am a confessed francophile and I stand before you unapologetic. This one is a fundamental of French cuisine, much like coq au vin or escargot.

Beef Bouguignon was historically a country or peasant food. As the name indicates it originates from the region of Burgundy which lies south of Paris between Dijon and Lyons. Burgundy is best known for its wines, which are in my opinion the best in the world for both white and red. However its contributions to French cuisine are numerous, including escargot, Dijon mustard and Jambon Persillé.

This one is a rather labor-intensive process, especially if you make your on stock for it. I know it’s a lot of work so I’ll provide a couple shortcuts for the slackers to cut back on the time. So let’s move on to the basics for preparation.

Several cuts of beef will work just fine, like chuck or even short rib. Look for a braising cut that has good marbling. I realize that most reading this are probably not going to make their own beef stock. I will post on the topic of stocks at a later date to persuade more of you to do this but for now if you want to use a packaged low-sodium beef broth it will substitute ok. It will just have a little less soul.

Also the garnish, in classic French cuisine, is known as garniture grande-mère. It’s a combination of mushrooms, lardons (thick pieces of bacon) and glazed pearl onions. Glazed pearl onions can be rather labor and technique intensive to pull off for many home cooks. If you are uncomfortable with the process you can simply roast them in a hot oven with salt, pepper and butter.

Many modern interpretations of this dish, including Thomas Keller’s, use potatoes in the recipe. My rigidly traditional French inner-grandmother will not permit this though. Traditional Beef Bourguignon is always served with noodles.

Beef Bourguignon

1 kg (2 lbs.) beef chuck or any braising beef

1 bottle dry red wine

6 oz. bacon slab

2-3 white onions, large dice

2-3 carrots, large dice

1-2 celery stalks, large dice

3-4 garlic cloves, whole

1 tbsp tomato paste

4 cups veal or beef stock

1 bunch fresh thyme

1/2 bunch parsley

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup flour

canola oil

salt and black pepper

for the garnish

25-30 pearl onions or shallots

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp sugar

500 g mushrooms (I used Ministry of Mushrooms oyster mushrooms)

2 shallots, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

300 g fresh pasta, such as fettuccine or tagliatelle (or make your own)

Cut your bacon slab into thick strips or lardons.

Cut your beef into 1 1/2″ cubes, drain and dry the meat on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and dust with flour.

In an oven-proof Dutch oven cook your bacon lardons until brown and crispy. Remove and set aside in a large bowl.

Add canola oil and begin searing your beef in batches until it is brown on all sides. Once all the meat is browned set aside with your lardons. It is very important to brown the meat well because this is what will give color and flavor to your stew later.

Reduce the heat to medium add the celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Cook until soft and slightly caramelized.

Preheat oven to 325f/175c.

Add tomato paste and red wine. Cook until reduced by 50%.

Return your beef and lardons and add your stock. Tie the thyme (reserve about 5-7 sprigs for later) and parsley stems (reserve the leaves for garnish) together and add to the liquid. There should be enough liquid to barely cover the beef.

Bring to a simmer, skimming off any fat or scum that rises to the top then cover and put in the oven.

Let braise in the oven for about 1 1/2-3 hours or until the meat is very tender. When it is complete remove the meat then strain the sauce through a sieve. Check the sauce for seasoning and consistency. If it’s too thick add water. If it’s too thin reduce.

Brown and meaty!

While this is going prepare garnish.

Add your peeled pearl onions or shallots to a sauté pan. Add butter, sugar and enough water to cover about half way. Cover this with a lid or parchment paper and cook on low heat. Add water as needed and cook until a paring knife passes easily into the onions. When they are finished, reduce the cooking liquid and glaze the onions with the liquid. Or, if you don’t feel like doing all of this, just toss them in salt and pepper and roast them in a hot oven with butter.

Preheat another sauté pan on high heat. Add canola oil and cook your mushrooms in batches. Allow them to sit still in the pan and caramelize. Once they are brown on one side add butter garlic, shallots, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper and toss.

Caramelized oyster mushrooms

Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the package, or if you’re like me, make fresh pasta dough and roll them out by hand. When the noodles are cooked, toss them in butter and chopped parsley.

My hand-rolled country noodles were a labor of love

When all is complete, plate your noodles first then spoon on generous heapings of braised meat and garnish with the mushrooms and pearl onions. Add a little chopped parsley for color.

Now there is only one wine that can grace the table alongside Beef Bourguignon, and that is Burgundy. Look for a full-bodied Burgundy that can stand up to this hearty dish such as a Côte de Nuits.

Sounds like a lot of work, huh? Well that’s because it is and that’s why we have people like me. Need help? Give me a shout!


  1. I tried making this once. And though it did taste great I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. It took me about 3 days from marination to actual cooking.

    • Three days sounds a bit long. Although I usually advocate allowing braised meats to sit in the fridge for an extra day after cooking to allow the flavor to develop.

      • anonymous paul says:

        that’s correct. marination overnight, cooked the following daw and then the extra day in the fridge :)

  2. It’s a nice post.

  3. easily my favorite beef dish. i don’t put potatoes either…makes it too heavy with the noodles.

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