Monday, March 12, 2012

Bœuf Bourguignon aka Beef Burgundy

Since the New Zealand weather has becoming less and less predictable, and getting colder by the day, it almost feels like WINTER even though it is still only March.  I thought I would prepare everyone for the winter to come with this hearty Bœuf Bourguignon recipe!

Bœuf Bourguignon just like its name is a beef dish from the famous wine region Burgundy in the eastern part of France.  It was very popular back in the 1960s at dinner parties.  This rustic and rich comfort food is slowly creeping back onto the restaurant menus and into our homes.  Bœuf Bourguignon is one of those classic peasant dishes that have been refined slowly through time.  Since it was a peasant dish of origin, back then tougher cuts of beef were used and then slowly tenderised through slow and low simmering.  Nowadays, more luxury cuts are used so shorter cooking time is required.  However, thanks to the recession and inflation, maybe slowly we'll return back to the peasant days...which will make this dish even more perfect!

In my possessions I have 3 different versions of Bœuf Bourguignon; these are not "Julia Child's" version (which is Sauté de Boeuf à la Bourguignonne) that seems to be very popular since the release of the movie Julie and Julia which is slightly different from the original recipe described by Auguste Escoffier.  In my possession I have one from The Cook's Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen, the other from Cook: How to Cook Absolutely Everything (Australian Women's Weekly) and lastly for those read Chinese from this book 高級法式料理. One may think it is only a simple casserole dish, how different can the recipes be?  Well...they are VERY DIFFERENT!  The one from "The Cook's Companion" uses blade/chuck steak brandy, orange zest, flat mushrooms, shallots and bacon cooked slowly in a 170°C oven for 2 and 1/2 hours.  While the one from "Cook" uses gravy beef, bacon, mushrooms and shallots, it is cooked slowly on a stove for 2 hours.  The one from 高級法是料理 uses celery, carrots, tomato and tomato paste, and cooked in a 180-200°C oven for 1 and 1/2 hours.  

Bœuf Bourguignon - this is what it should look like at the end.  NOTE: this was made 
with Chicken stock as I didn't have beef stock or 8 hours to cook my own veal stock,  
so the colour is a lot lighter than you would expect a bœuf Bourguignon to be.  
It should be a dark rich reddish brown colour, closer to the colour of your red wine.
The recipe I'm providing here is from the 高級法是料理 recipe book in Chinese that I bought in Taiwan written by three famous French Chef whom apparently are "Professors of French Cuisine"...this makes my PhD in Bioengineering and Physiology so minuscule...However, I am unable to say whether this is the "authentic" version or closer to Julia Child's version or some other modernised version since I don't have Julia Child's book nor read French.  I enjoy this particular recipe because personally I don't believe in using brandy in this dish and don't like putting bacon into a beef dish, and lastly am not a fan of mushrooms, but these are not the mains reason why I chose the 高級法是料理 recipe.  The colour from this recipe is impeccable thanks to the part where you reduce the red wine into a thick sauce and then added into the casserole, and also there's a recipe at the back of the book that allows you to make the rich veal stock (fond de veau) - if you want amazing flavour then definitely make the stock.  Nevertheless, we are all pretty busy and cannot spend 8 hours making this - yes you read it correctly 8 hours!!!  This is when a handy dandy slower cooker comes in handy or supermarket pre-made beef stock :)

This recipe uses beef belly - and it was on special the other day ($9.99 per kg) so I just had to buy some.  I originally intended to make another dish, however after realising that I didn't have beer at home (yes, the Chinese Braised Beef Belly uses draft beer and yes it was also shocking to find that I didn't have any beer at home!), so I decided to make Bœuf Bourguignon instead - t'was equally delicious, though would be even more AMAZING if I had used the veal/beef stock!  It is on rare occasions that I didn't stock any beef stocks in my pantry so I had to use chicken stock...  I served this later with creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes and garlic butter zucchinis/courgettes and accompanied by a good bottle of Shiraz! (this was the left over wine - I used a cheap bottle for the 750mL part and good bottle for the 250mL part).  The Cabernet Merlot also goes well with this recipe.  I hope you will all enjoy this recipe!  Bon Appétit!

Bœuf Bourguignon

800g beef belly (cut into 4 pieces)
200 g onion, cubed
100g carrot, cubed
100g celery, cubed
30g butter
20g flour
130g tomato, skinned and chopped
25g tomato paste
1L red wine
500mL Veal/Beef Stock
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bouquet garini*
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. 
  2. In a pan, heat some oil (preferably vegetable oil like canola as it has a higher smoking point).  Salt and pepper the beef, place in the hot pan and brown the outside of the beef well.  Remove and drip dry the oil on a wire rack.  Make sure not to crowd the pan with the beef as it will not sear but instead stew.
  3. Tip away the excess fat from the pan then add in about 250mL of red wine and reduce (I tend to reduce it to 1/3 of its original volume or more).
  4. In a heat proof pot (like a casserole pot), heat the pot then add the butter.  Stir fry the onions, carrots and celery in the butter until a slight change in colour or slightly softened.  Add the flour and mix well (make sure you don't burn the flour).
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beef and 750mL red wine into the pot.  Boil the mixture for about 5min until the alcohols are burnt off.
  6. Add the reduced red wine from Step 3 and the veal/beef stock turn the heat on high and boil.  Reduce the heat after the mixture has boiled and skim off the debris from the top.
  7. Add the bouquet garini, garlic, and salt and pepper, place the lid on and cook in the preheated 180°C oven.  After 1hr and 30min, remove the bouquet garini and check the seasoning and adjust with more salt and pepper accordingly. 
  8. Serve with creamy mash potatoes or fettuccine.

* Bouquet Garini - 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme and 2-3 stalks tie together in a string.  Not all of us will have these fresh herbs in stock, so if you don't, omit the bay leave and use dried thyme.  It is vital that you use "European" celery and not the "Chinese" celery, as the Chinese celery fragrance overpowers the stock.

As you've noticed, this recipe requires 1L of red wine.  Most wine comes in a 750mL bottle, so what to do with the remaining wine?  I tend to drink a glass while I am cooking, but you can always save the rest and serve it with the Bœuf Bourguignon.  Depending on your oven, the recipe suggests a range of 180-200°C, I suppose this will depend on the type of beef you use and how well you know your oven.  My new oven tends to increase in heat over time, so I usually use the lower temperature as it will heat up later any way.

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