I adore proper boeuf Bourguignon. My mother used to make this for buffet parties. Like me, she made it in a Tower Automatic Slo Cooker. This way, a really fabulous stew can be had for essentially no effort. Using the Slo Cooker enables some of the sequential cooking to be done all at once.
But what about the original? Just like my favoured recipe for scrambled eggs, the go-to recipe for boeuf Bourguignon was written by Auguste Escoffier. The basic recipe that most modern adaptations come from is based on that by Julia Child. Child is credited with introducing Americans to French cooking with her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her recipe for boeuf Bourguignon sets out the basics of melting bacon fat, browning the meat in it, browning onions, adding 50:50 wine and stock and braising for a couple of hours. Later in the cooking, the bacon is added back, and some button mushrooms join the party. The stew is thickened with a beurre manie.
America’s Julia Child
However, as indicated above, owning a slow cooker lets you break a few of these rules and get an arguably better result. In our family recipe, we add the flour earlier in the cooking, and don’t bother with the late addition of bacon and mushrooms – it all goes in together … for a day. The beauty of this is that the prep is quite quick (apart from peeling the onions), so you can do this in the morning, and have a great dinner waiting for you in the evening.
- 1kg beef chuck, diced
- 50g streaky bacon lardons
- 30g butter
- 12 pearl onions or small shallots, blanched and peeled
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 250ml red wine (ideally Burgundy)
- 250ml beef stock
- 150g button mushrooms
- 1 bouquet garni (parsley stalks, bay leaf, 2 springs if thyme and 1 halved celery stick tied in a bundle with string)
Put the lardons in a cold cast iron casserole or large pan, and put the heat on. Fry the bacon until there is a good amount of fat released. Remove the lardons.
Brown the beef in the fat on all sides, and reserve.
Add the butter and fry the shallots/onions in the fat until lightly browned. If anything starts to stick, deglaze the pot with a little of the wine.
Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook for a further minute.
Pour in the wine and stock, and add back all the meat. Pop in the bouquet garni.
Bring the stew up to a simmer, and transfer to the slow cooker pot. Put the cooker on auto, and go and go hiking with the family for 6 hours.
After the stew is braised, remove all the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Discard the bouquet garni. Pour the stock into a pan and simmer it until thickened. Pour the thickened sauce back over the meat and vegetables.
Serve with sides of your choice. The featured photograph on this page shows boeuf Bourguignon topped with a little tower of colcannon.
If you don't have a slow cooker, just use the same ingredients and follow the Julia Child method. A cast-iron casserole that can go from stove to oven is a huge boost, because the low and slow stage is best done covered in an oven at 150˚C – this makes boeuf Bourguignon a one-pan meal. If you do this, you can still put the flour in earlier, and you may find that the stew thickens on its own in the oven.