Beef Bourguignon is good stuff, especially if you take the trouble to make it properly. It's a stew fit for a dinner party, rich and savoury, and it gets better with a rest overnight and reheating. But it's not really fit for photography, because it's basically just brown. I made enough for three meals, and we've had it with mixed broccoli and cauliflower on the side, and some toasted sourdough bread one night, and pumpkin mash another.
I used Julia Child's recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, with some modifications. I revisited this cookbook a while ago, when the Julie/Julia Project was in full swing. I loved Julie Powell's blog - she took on the amazing task of cooking every single recipe in that book in the space of a year. As she put it, "365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen." Did she make it? Read the blog. Although it was 2002/3, so you can find out quite quickly.
Julie's first go at this dish was not a success. But she persevered, and the second time worked fine. I simplified. There are whole chunks of the routine that I skipped - no boiling bacon, because I didn't have a whole chunk, just slices. No salt, because the bacon is salty enough. And after going to all the trouble of getting the meat right, I could not be bothered to cook the onions and mushrooms separately. I just chucked them in late in the cooking process. Nor did I bother skimming and straining and reducing the sauce. It worked fine. I really do think that the critical thing is the startup, so I put the effort in to that section.
Recipe: Beef Bourguignon
180g good streaky bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 kg trimmed weight stewing beef
30g plain flour
750ml red wine
500ml rich beef stock or consomme
pepper, rosemary, 1/2 tsp thyme, 2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, crushed
18 shallots or pickling onions
400g white mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Trim the large chunks of fat and rind from the bacon. Toss them in a deep fireproof casserole dish with the olive oil, and fry gently to render down the fat. Meanwhile, slice the bacon into small strips, and chop the onion. When the fat is rendered, remove the solids and discard, and add the bacon strips. Brown lightly, for 2-3 minutes, then remove to a bowl.
Brown the meat in the bacon fat, a handful at a time, removing to the bowl when nicely browned on all sides. Don't cover the base of the pan with meat, you don't want the fat to cool down too much and the juices to come out.
Add the sliced onion to the pan to brown. Remove pan from heat, pour out any remaining large pools of fat, then return the meat and bacon. Sift over the flour and toss through. Put the open casserole dish in the oven for 4 minutes, then remove, stir well, and return for an additional 4 minutes. This browns the flour and lightly crusts the beef.
Reduce oven heat to 150C. Pour over the wine and stock to cover the meat. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer, then cover and place in the oven for two hours. Check it to make sure it doesn't go above a simmer; reduce heat if necessary. Add the peeled whole shallots and the mushrooms, and continue to simmer for another hour.
When the meat is tender and vegetables are cooked, bring the casserole to the stove top. Adjust the gravy to your taste - simply simmer uncovered for a while to reduce the sauce down, or add extra wine if it's too thick.
Notes: I used Campbell's Real Consomme in a tetra pack, and a superior quality cask wine. You don't want to go too cheap and nasty with this; the wine is a major ingredient, but don't use the $50 a bottle version either. Also, I doubled the garlic and herb quantities that Julia Child uses, and added a sprig of rosemary.