Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Test: Boeuf Bourguignonne

Next year, we are definitely going out for Valentine's Day dinner.  I had the brilliant idea of making boeuf bourguignonne while N was at the office (on a Sunday!).  The meal was amazingly delicious, but the process of making it was a DISASTER!  Not only did I almost set the oven on fire and burn a batch of cookies before I even started, I then singed my entire hairline. Apparently, you should not try to look too closely while you set brandy on fire, but alas I had to learn that the hard way. Despite the fact that my hair barely survived the boeuf bourguigonne, it was well worth the hard work. N said it was "the best thing he has ever eaten." This version of beouf bourguignonne is apparently "Penny Lane's" recipe as seen in a lovely cookbook/magazine called Mother's Best Comfort Food from the makers of Fine Cooking.

Boeuf Bourguignonne
From Mother's Best Comfort Food

5 lbs. beef chuck, cut into cubes
2 1/2 tsps. plus a pinch kosher salt (divided)
1 1/2 tsp. plus a pinch freshly ground black pepper (divided)
1/2 lb. bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces (chill for 10 minutes in the freezer to make it easier to cut)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 medium yellow onions, finely diced
3 large carrots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup brandy
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine, such as Burgundy or Pinot Noir
4 cups homemade brown veal stock or canned low-sodium beef broth (divided)
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs Italian parsley, tied together)
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
10-12 oz. pearl onions, peeled
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat the oven to 350F. Arrange the beef in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium0high heat for several minutes.  When hot, add the bacon and cook until almost crisp and the fat is rendered.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving behind as much fat as possible.

3.  Increase the heat to high. Add just enough beef to cover the bottom of the pot without crowding.  Brown the pieces on all sides, using tongs to turn them, transferring them back to the baking sheet as they finish browning and adding more meat as the pot allows.

4. When all the meat is browned and removed from the pot, add the oil, and then the diced onions and carrots, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium-high and continue to saute until the begin to soften, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for another 3 minutes. Add the brandy and flambe. (To flambe, pour the brandy into the pot and light it immediately by holding a long match or barbecue lighter just above the surface of the liquid. BE CAREFUL not to light your hair on fire. Try to keep the flames going for as long as possible to burn off the alcohol.)

5. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the flour to make a roux.  Cook the roux, stirring, for about 3 minutes.

6. Stir in the wine, a little at a time, allowing the roux to absorb the liquid before adding more (to prevent lumps) and scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Add 3 3/4 cups stock, the browned meat, and the bouquet garni.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Remove from the heat, cover, and place in the oven for about 2 hours. Test for doneness by piercing the meat with a two-pronged fork.  If it falls away easily, it is done.  If the meat offers resistance or clings to the fork, return it to the oven and cook an additional 20 minutes.

7. While the stew is cooking, glaze the onions. Place a medium saute pan over medium-high heat for several minutes. When hot, add 1 tablespoon butter and teh onions at the same time. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and saute until browned. Add the remaining 1/4 cup stock, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook until the onions are soft and glazed, 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan now and then (they should be a bit shiny).  If there is still liquid in the pan by the time they onions have softened, remove the cover and continue cooking until all the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

8. Return the saute pan to high heat.  When very hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and enough mushrooms to cover the bottom of the pan (the mushrooms need to be seared at high heat so they brown instead of steam).  Season with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the onions.  Repeat if necessary with any remaining mushrooms.

9. Remove the stew from the oven, and gently stir in the sauteed mushrooms, onions, and bacon. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary with more salt and pepper; sprinkle with the parsley and serve with steamed new potatoes, mashed potatoes, or rice.

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