Elevated comfort food for the soul
Almost every culture around the world has some version of braised beef, or more commonly known as beef stew. The Italians make theirs with potatoes, celery and tomato puree. The Mexicans make theirs with corn, cumin and chili powder. And the French call theirs Beef Bourguignon and it’s made with mushrooms, pearl onions and a bottle of red wine. There are countless versions around the world of variations on beef stew. But when I get that craving for a soul satisfying, mouth watering, hearty stew, nothing else will do except for the French classic, Beef Bourguignon, served alongside a big hunk of crusty rustic sourdough bread (buttered, of course) to soak up every drop of stewed deliciousness. It’s just about the best snowy night dinner to enjoy in front of the fire with a bottle of Bordeaux.
The style of cooking stew is called braising and something magical happens when you braise a meat and no one does it better than the French. Coq au vin, Cassoulet, Lapin a La Cocotte and yes, Beef Bourguignon are amongst my favorite slow cooked, French country meals. When you braise, the flavors have hours to develop and permeate every bite. When you sear or grill, you simply can’t produce the same depth of flavor as you can with braising.
This Beef Bourguignon recipe comes from Ina Garten and uses cognac and a full bottle of red wine that creates a rich, elegant sauce that will have you scraping every last drop from your bowl. The inclusion of mushrooms brings a second level of heartiness that complements the beef perfectly and the pearl onions and carrots pull the party together with their natural sweetness. Together, they make every bite the best bite, which is always the goal of a perfect recipe.
• Rather than buy the pre-cubed stew meat from the butcher counter, I prefer to cut my own beef cubes from one large cut of chuck to ensure uniform sizes and can control the quality of the cuts.
• Always make more than you think you need when you make this dish. It does not go as far as you think because everyone will go back for seconds.