BOEUF BOURGUIGNON (French beef stew with mushrooms, onions and red wine, for six to eight)
a 5 to 6 ounce chunk of salt pork or bacon
olive oil or peanut oil
3 to 4 pounds beef stew meat cut into 2 inch squares
3 cups strong young red wine, such as Macon, Mountain Red or Gamay
2 or more cups beef stock or bouillon
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
a 2 inch piece of dried orange peel, or 1/3 teaspoon bottled, dried peel
1 moderately large tomato
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 or more cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
beurre manie for the final sauce (blend 3 tablespoons flour with 2-1/2 tablespoons soft butter)
18 to 24 small white onions about 1 inch in diameter
½ pound or more fresh mushrooms
- Cut the pork or bacon into lardons ¼ inch across and 1 inch long and blanch them (simmer 10 minutes in 2 quarts water to remove the salt and smoky taste). Saute them slowly in 1 tablespoon of oil for 5 minutes until they are lightly browned. Remove them and set aside.
- Heat the fat they have rendered, adding oil if necessary, to very hot but not smoking. Dry the meat with paper towels, and add as many pieces as will fit in one layer in the pan without crowding (If there is not sufficient room, the beef will steam rather than brown). Brown nicely on all sides, regulating the heat so that the fat is hot but not smoking. Add more oil is needed, and when one piece is browned, transfer it to a casserole and add another piece until all are browned. Pour the browning fat out of the pan and add a cup of wine. Bring to a simmer, scraping up the coagulated browning juices, and pour this liquid over the beef.
- The recipe can be completed a day or two ahead to this point. Or, you may add the wine to it now, as well as the stock and seasonings from the next step. Then set it aside and refrigerate. The wine tenderizes the meat, and the other ingredients will flavor it as it marinates.
- Set the casserole over heat. Add the optional wine and enough stock or bouillon to cover the meat. Add the bay leaf, thyme and orange peel. Wash the tomato, chop it roughly and add it to the beef along with the tomato paste and the unpeeled garlic cut in half. Bring to a simmer, taste, and salt lightly if necessary. Cover and cook at a slow simmer on top of the stove.
- Choice or prime cuts of chuck or round may take only 2 hours, while shank or heel may take up to 4 hours. If you have top quality meat, check every 15 minutes or so after 1-1/2 hours of simmering. The beef must not overcook and fall apart when served, but it must be tender enough for a pleasant chew.
- While the beef is simmering, peel the onions by dropping them into a saucepan of boiling water, bringing the water back to a boil, and boiling for 1 minute. Shave off the 2 ends of each onion, slip off the skins and pierce a cross 3/8 inch deep in the root ends to prevent them from bursting during cooking. Place the onions in a heavy saucepan, add ½ inch of water, a pinch of salt and the browned pork lardons. Cover and simmer slowly, tossing occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until the onions are just tender when pierced with a knife. Set aside.
- Trim off dry or sandy stems of mushrooms, wash them thoroughly but rapidly and dry them in a towel. Leave them whole if they are small, and halve them or quarter them if they are larger. Film a frying pan with 1/16 inch of oil, heat it to very hot but not smoking, and add enough mushrooms to cover the bottom of the pan. Toss over high heat for 2 minutes until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Add them to the cooked onions and proceed with the rest of the mushrooms, if any, in the same manner.
- When the beef is tender, set a large colander over a saucepan and pour the contents of the casserole into the colander. Wash out the casserole and return the meat to it. Press the juices out of the remains in the colander, and discard the residue.
- Skim the fat off of the liquid in the saucepan and taste it carefully for strength and seasoning. You should have about 3 cups of meaty, rich stock. Boil it down rapidly if weak, to concentrate the flavor, adding a bit more stock, wine, herbs, garlic, or tomato paste if you feel them necessary. Remove from the heat, blend in the beurre manie with a wire whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring, as it thickens to a light sauce. Check seasoning.
- Arrange the onions, mushrooms and lardons over the beef in the casserole along with any onion-cooking juices. Pour the sauce over and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce to blend flavors. The stew can be served immediately or set aside and reheated. Serve with buttered egg noodles or parsley potatoes.