I was about 10 years old when I cooked my first meal. I was inspired after watching Julia Child who mesmerized me with her casual presence. The pitch of her voice jumped around all over the place while she educated me on the fine art of French cuisine. At first I thought I was only lured by the anticipation of the tasty end product. Then I realized that I enjoyed the entire process. Whether learning about the ingredients, understanding the techniques or experimenting with flavors, I was captivated by it all.
After watching Julia prepare the perfect French omelet, I gathered up a couple eggs., salt and pepper. Unfortunately, that would be all of the proper ingredients that were available in our house. I was a determined and resourceful 10 year old and knew milk and butter should make a nice replacement. I remember climbing onto the counter and found green sugar sprinkles used for decorating Christmas cookies. It wasn’t exactly parsley, but I had to have something green to sprinkle onto to omelet, just like Julia had done. Ok, it was actually scrambled eggs with green sugar but I proudly placed my plate at the dining table. My mom looked at my dad and asked, “Is that going to make her sick?” Dad, a pediatrician, assured my mother that I’d survive my meal. I honestly don’t remember what it tasted like, but it boosted my confidence in the kitchen. I cooked my first meal!
What I learned from the experience is that it’s ok to take a short cut as long as you enjoy the end result. Here’s my slightly healthier and easier to prepare Boeuf Bourguignon that can be easily frozen for a fast and delicious meal during the week. My apologies to Julia and French food enthusiasts if I’ve offended you, but this turned out pretty tasty and with a lot less fuss.
NOTE: There are 3 different recipes here so make sure you read it all to get the complete ingredient shopping list.
- 6 strips of bacon (get over it, it’s only a small amount of bacon in a big pot)
- 9-10 in enamel casserole pot
- olive oil
- 3 pounds lean stewing beef cut into 2 inch cubes
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups of Chianti
- 1 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2-3 cups of beef stock
- 3 cloves mashed garlic
- ½ teaspoons thyme leaves
- 1 crumbled bay leaf
- 18-24 oignons glaces a bruns (braised small white onions – see recipe below for ingredients)
- 1 pound champignons sauté san beurre (quartered sautéed mushrooms – see recipe below for ingredients)
- parsley springs (optional)
Preheat over 450F. Cut bacon into small cubes and cook in enamel pot until a little crispy. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and place on top of a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Discard excess fat. Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the casserole and heat. In small batches, brown meat on all 4 sides in hot oil, being careful not to crowd the meat as it will steam instead of sear. Remove browned meat and set aside. Add sliced carrots and onion to casserole and brown.
Sprinkle flour over meat and toss. Meat should be evenly coated with flour. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Return the meat to the casserole and place uncovered in oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to over for 4 additional minutes. The purpose of this step is to brown the flour and cover the meat with a light crust. Remove pot and turn oven down to 325F.
In a measuring cup or bowl, add wine, tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Stir to dilute the paste then add to meat in casserole. Add enough beef stock to just barely cover the meat. Stir in the bacon. Bring to stew to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and return to oven for 2.5 -3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
Skim off any excess fat. This is easier to do after refrigerating the stew. The fat will rise to the top and solidify.
Just before serving, add the mushrooms and onions prepared separately. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. I like to serve this with roasted fingerling potatoes , parsnips and butternut squash.
Beouf bourgignon freezes nicely and heats up well on the stove top or microwave.
CHAMPIGNONS SAUTE SANS BEURRE (mushrooms sautéed without butter)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms sliced or quartered
- salt & pepper
Heat up oil and add mushrooms, tossing until brown about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and set aside.
OIGNONS GLACES A BRUN (brown braised onions )
- 18-24 frozen peeled small white onions, or fresh peeled (TIP: drop fresh unpeeled onions in a pot of boiling hot water for a couple seconds to make removing the skin easier)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Remaining chiati from bottle and add enough beef stock for a total of ½ cup of liquid
- salt & pepper
I have a hard time finding fresh small white onions. When I do, I find it’s very time consuming to peal each onion. Dropping the onions for a minute in boiling hot water helps the peal to come off easily, but I find that frozen, peeled small onions works well too.
Add oil to pan and heat. Once the oil is hot, drop the onions into pan and brown. Turn carefully so you don’t break the skin . Try to get them evenly browned but this will be difficult to attain.
After the onion has browned, pour in wine and beef stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes. The onions should be tender but retain their shape and the liquid should be evaporated.