Hailing from the Burgundy region of France, Beef Burgundy or "Beef bourguignon" is a traditional dish of stewed beef. This well-known stew consists of beef braised in red wine and beef broth and flavored with onions, herbs and mushrooms.

Today Beef Burgundy is thought of as high-class French food, however, it is a prime example of a peasant dish that has been slowly refined into haute cuisine. It is thought that peasants slowly simmered the beef in wine as a way to tenderize tough cuts of meat.

On a recent weekend I decided I wanted to try a new recipe. I had always heard of Beef bourguignon and seen it in cookbooks and being made on cooking shows. I knew that this was one of the late Julia Child's signature dishes.

I settled for a simpler version of the original. Based on the online reviews of Julia Child's recipe, it was quite time-consuming, although I'm sure delicious.

The recipe I found called for Burgundy wine although other recipes say other red wines will do. It took me awhile to find Burgundy wine as I was able to locate only one brand in a 1.5 liter bottle, yet the recipe only requires one cup.

The prep time took me about 30 minutes (gathering ingredients, slicing vegetables and bacon, and cubing beef) before I was able to get going.

As I began to cook, I soon realized the aroma of this dish is part of what makes it so special. The smell of the vegetables hitting the hot bacon grease is amazing and unlike what I've smelled before.

Once all of the ingredients were in the skillet and were simmering away, our house filled with the smells of a comforting dinner. It was hard not to keep peeking at the morsels of beef and veggies cooking in the dark sauce, but by cooking it on low it required very little stirring.

I followed the ingredient list and cooking instructions carefully (not something I always do) and had high hopes for this dish.

At the hour-and-15-minute mark, dinner was done. I served the beef atop wide egg noodles, alongside a salad of spring greens and buttered rolls.

The results were divine. The beef was as tender as could be and the sauce was a perfect balance of soothing flavors.



Easy Beef Burgundy

This is the basic version I found online at about.com under French food and tried recently for dinner.

5 slices bacon, chopped

1 cup chopped yellow or white onions

3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 pounds beef chuck, cubed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

1/16 teaspoon ground allspice (scant pinch)

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 1/2 cups cleaned, coarsely chopped mushrooms

1 cup Burgundy, or dry red wine

1/2 cup beef stock

In a large saucepan over high heat, cook the bacon until it turns crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from the pan. Sautee the onions, carrots, and celery in the bacon grease for 5 minutes, until the vegetables turn soft. Transfer them to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set it aside for a moment.

Season the beef with the salt and pepper and brown it in the remaining bacon grease. Once all sides of the beef are browned, sprinkle the parsley, thyme, rosemary, allspice, and flour over the beef. Stir in the tomato paste and cook the spiced beef for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, cooked vegetables, crisped bacon, wine, and beef stock into the pan with the beef, and then cook the mixture over low heat, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The Beef Burgundy is done when the meat and vegetables are tender and the sauce is thickened.

Yield: 4-6 servings.



Boeuf Bourguignon

This recipe comes from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck published in 1961.

6 oz chunk bacon; with rind

1 tb olive oil; or vegetable oil

3 lb lean stewing beef; cut into 2-inch cubes

1 carrot; sliced

1 onion; sliced

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 tb flour

3 c red wine; see Notes

2 c brown beef stock; up to 3, or canned beef bouillon

1 tb tomato paste

2 cloves garlic; mashed

1/2 tsp thyme

1 bay leaf; crumbled

Brown-braised Onions

18 small white onions; up to 24, peeled

1 1/2 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup brown stock; or canned beef bouillon, or dry white wine, red wine, or water (for braising)

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste



Medium Herb Bouquet

4 parsley sprigs

1/2 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon thyme



Sauteed Mushrooms

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 lb fresh mushrooms; washed, well dried

1 tablespoon shallots; up to 2, minced (optional), or green onions

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

Garnish

parsley sprigs; for garnish

Instructions (Recipe may be completed in advance through step 13)

Bacon Preparation

1. Remove rind from bacon. Cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1-1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry. If you are using regular sliced bacon, you can omit this step, which is used to draw some of the salt out of the bacon.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

3. In a 9-10-inch fireproof casserole 3 inches deep, sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Beef Preparation

4. Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

5. In the same fat, brown the sliced carrot and onion. Pour out the sauteing fat.

6. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees F.

7. Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato puree, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of the preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2½ to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

Brown-braises onions (may be cooked in advance):

8. (Onions should be about 1 inch in diameter.) When the butter and oil are bubbling in a 9-10 inch enameled skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

9. Choose between braising and baking, below.

To Braise: 9a. (Make a medium Herb Bouquet by tying herbs in cheesecloth.)Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40-50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet.(The onions may be cooked hours in advance, and reheated before serving.They may also be served as a side dish as they are, or added to a hotvegetable dish, or used to garnish a roast.)

To Bake: 9b. (Make a medium Herb Bouquet by tying herbs in cheesecloth.)Transfer the onions and their sauteing fat to a shallow baking dish or casserole just large enough to hold them in one layer. Set uncovered in upper third of a preheated 350-degree F oven for 40-50 minutes, turning them over once or twice. They should be very tender, retain their shape,and be a very nice golden brown. Remove herb bouquet. (See 9a for alternate serving suggestions.

Sauteed mushrooms (may be cooked in advance):

10. Place a 10-inch enameled skillet over high heat with butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4-5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2-3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

11. (Optional) Toss 1-2 tablespoons minced shallots or green onions with the mushrooms. Sauté over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Season to taste just before serving.

Casserole Finale

12. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

13. Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimmingoff additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. (Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For Immediate Serving

14a. Cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice,and decorated with parsley.

For Later Serving

14b. When cold, cover and refrigerate. Do not cover before the casserole is completely cool or it will sour. (It also freezes beautifully.) About 15-20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Notes: The better the meat, the better the stew, allowing 1 pound of boneless meat, trimmed of fat, for 2 people (or 3 if the menu is large). First choice: rump pot roast. Other: chuck pot roast, sirloin tip, top round, or bottom round.

Wines: fairly full-bodied, young red wine, such as Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux-St. Emilion, or Burgundy.

Yield: 6 servings