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I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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« migas: a stand-out dish inspired by batali's so-so book 'spain' | Main | chorizo tortilla with fino sherry: revealing the flavors of Spain »

beef bourguignon: a nod to france's beloved 'boeuf'

Every time I go to Paris, there are two things I crave: oeuf and boeuf. More than any other country, it seems, the French have perfected cooking egg and beef. From the classic croque madame to the simple but elegant steak au poivre, they have raised the bar for these humble ingredients.

My recent trip there did not fail me.

After traveling nearly 20 hours and heaving my luggage up the RER stairs and Paris metro stairs a total of eight times, I rolled my suitcase, out of breath, into the Crown Plaza hotel lounge where I immediately plopped into a cozy, wine-colored chair like a puppet with no string master. The waiter appeared wearing a starched white shirt and black bowtie. I was too tired to offer up scrappy French. “Croque madame and a glass of viognier please.” He nodded and disappeared between the velvet chairs.

To my great luck, my open-faced ham and egg sandwich arrived drenched in béchamel sauce and nestled in a pile of sizzling hot fries. Ah, the ouef. The glorious egg. When I punctured it with the tines of my fork, the bright yellow yolk spilled its silky liquid onto the bread.

Good French food is like a drug; it alters one’s reality, and if only for a moment, makes one believe they are living the postcard version of France where poets and artists make a decent living, workdays are fewer, and kissing is a national pastime.

It’s this version of Paris that keeps Paris busy being Paris. I. M. Pei may add high-tech pyramids to the Louvre but the bistro chairs will always look the same and a good steak with frites never goes out of fashion.

And thank God for that because my favorite French dishes are usually the most humble.

Co-owner Dominique Vessiere at Le P'tit Troquet

At Le P’tit Troquet, a charming, family-run 1920s-style bistro in the 7th arrondissement, I sampled a delicious boeuf bourguignon with tender chunks of beef that had been braised for hours. The chef served the tasty stew with a side of homemade noodles and a garnish of fresh bay leaf and thyme. I adored the simplicity of the dish, which relied more on drawing out deep flavors through traditional cooking methods than on fancy techniques. For at least that night, I was happy to live in the postcard version of Paris, the one that never ceases to capture my imagination through simple, good food.

Here is my ode to France's beloved boeuf, a beef bourguignon, similar to the one I tasted at Le P'tit Troquet.

According to The New Best Recipe, all beef burgundies start with either salt pork or bacon. The book instructs cooks to boil the salt pork first to remove excess salt and argues a similar technique for bacon, saying that blanching bacon calms the smoke and sugar. Personally, I didn't want to calm my bacon flavors, especially since I was only going to use the rendered fat, not the bacon bits. Using just the rendered fat turned out a sauce that was delicate and balanced.

This recipe is a combination of three recipes, one from The New Best Recipe, and the other two from Saveur Cooks Authentic French and Paris Bistro Cooking. It's the tastiest version I've tried yet.

Beef Bourguignon

Serves 4 with extra

3 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1-1/2 inch squares
4 ounces bacon
1 bunch parsley
1 teaspoon peppercorns
3-4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins removed
1 bottle burgundy
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup flour
10 ounces button mushrooms
10 ounces pearl onions
salt and pepper
Parsley, finely diced, or fresh sprigs of fresh bay leaf and thyme for garnish
16 ounces fresh pasta (see recipe, below)

Special equipment: chinoise, pasta machine, bouquet garni bag.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium flame. Add the bacon and fry until crispy, turning once. Remove the bacon and pour out all but a tablespoon of the fat.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the bacon fat. On medium-high heat, brown the beef in batches, about 5 minutes per side. While the meat is browning, roughly chop the carrots and onions. Peel the garlic cloves. Assemble the bouquet garni by placing the peppercorns, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf in a bouqet garni bag and tying it off.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

When the beef is finished browning, remove it from the Dutch oven and set it aside on a plate.

In the bacon fat and juices from the beef, cook the carrot, onion, and garlic over medium heat for five minutes. Add the flour and stir for 30 seconds longer. Setting aside ¼ cup of the red wine, pour the bottle of wine into Dutch oven with the vegetables. Add the tomato paste, beef stock, the browned beef, the bouquet garni, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Cover and place in the oven. Cook for two hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the pearl onions by cutting a small “X” on the root end of the onion. Blanch the onions in boiling water for 3 minutes and remove. When they are cool, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the skin toward the X mark until the inner onion pops through the outer layer leaving a shell behind. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a saute pan and saute the pearl onions for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, halve the button mushrooms. If they are larger than two inches wide, quarter them. Add the mushrooms, along with another tablespoon of butter, to the pan and saute for about 6 – 8 more minutes.

After 2 hours, remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Using tongs, extract the beef chunks and set aside on a plate. Set a large bowl in the sink. Using a chinoise, strain the wine liquid through the chinoise and into the large bowl, pressing the solids against the chinoise with a spatula.

Discard the solids and pour the liquid back into the Dutch oven. Add pearl onions and mushroom mixture as well as the beef back into the pot. Cook together for 10 minutes.

Setting a deep pot over a high flame, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil for the pasta. Add 2 tablespoons salt and cook the egg noodles until they float to the top. Strain the noodles.

Add the remaining red wine to the beef bourguignon and cook for another three minutes. The New Best Recipe says "this late embellishment of raw wine vastly improved the sauce, brightening its flavor." I agree. Serve the stew over egg noodles and garnish with chopped parsley or fresh bay leaves and thyme.

Egg Noodles

3 eggs
2-1/2 cups flour plus more for dusting

Pour the flour onto an extra large cutting board. Form the flour into a circle with a well or ‘bowl’ in the middle. Crack the eggs into the middle of the flour. Slowly begin whisking eggs together, drawing flour from the sides of the ‘bowl’ into the egg mixture. Take your time and avoid lumps. The mixture should be smooth and silky. Once there is too much flour for your fork to handle, begin kneading the dough by hand, adding in extra flour until the dough is no longer sticky.

Cut the ball in quarters. Roll out each quarter so it will fit through a pasta machine. Set the pasta machine to Setting 2. Ensure the quarter of dough is well floured. Feed the dough through the machine twice. Repeat the procedure at Setting 4 and Setting 5.

Next, roll the pasta through the fettucine setting.

Repeat with the other three pieces of dough until all the pasta is cut and ready to cook. Follow the steps listed above and serve. Want to learn about wine pairing with beef bourguignon? Click here.

Reader Comments (23)

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it.

November 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterforex robot

Absolutely beautiful and delicious Angela. I love this French specialty very much, long way before that movie Julia and Julia came out. YUM!

November 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelra

Looks delish!

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLou

You even made your own egg noodles?

I will make this for Sunday dinner tomorrow night, thanks for the inspiration.
and I will try Le Ptite Troquet when we are in Paris, we stay in the 7th, so it should be easy to find!

November 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstacey snacks

Thanks, Paul! Will do.

Elra -- That's funny. Me too! I've been cooking some version of this for years and never get tired of it. This is the first time I've made my own egg noodles though. It's a tasty addition.

Thanks, Lou! I hope you guys have a great T-day next week.

Thanks, Stacey! Let me know how it turns out. Pasta making, I've decided, is easier that most people think and really makes a meal special. But feel free to cheat! :)

November 21, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

wow what an great post just got back from france you did a great job, love your blog

November 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

I will be making this for my grandmother's birthday dinner tomorrow. It looks great. I also linked to your gorgeous photos on my last post. Beautiful!

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLara Alexander

Thanks, Rebecca!

Lara: Thanks again for the link on your site! I hope you had a wonderful birthday celebration for your grandmother. Please let me know how the beef bourguignon turned out!

November 27, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

Picture perfect for winter, such a comforting dish Angela!

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelra

That looks wonderful!!!! I have to try this recipe soon.....absolutely delicious.

November 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErica

The beef bourguignon looks excellent, so good with homemade pasta!

November 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha - 5 Star Foodie

Hi, keep posting!!! Once a week. Seriously!

Thanks ;)

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRod

fabulous! great touch adding your own homemade noodles. kudos! we're off to paris for new years and i can NOT wait to eat. this is the best winter dish.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwe are never full

Thanks, Elra, Erica, and Natasha!

Rod: Thanks for the push -- I will try to post more often!

We are Never Full: I can't wait to hear about your Paris trip! Have fun!!

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Glad to see you back! I was wondering about you girl.

And coming back with this great looking dish. I also have that Saveur Authentic French book.
I haven't posted for awhile, so many reasons like DH being at the ER at Shady Grove for some days plus so many other everyday hassles.

But for sure will try this version of the recipe, these cold days are perfect for it.


December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMely

Mely: Thanks! DH at the ER? Did I miss this story on your blog? I'm curious to know. I hope that you're getting some time to relax and cook despite the stresses. Hugs, Angela

December 15, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

This looks fabulous and you made your own pasta! Really special and delicious meal.

December 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Thanks, Kate! I'm glad you liked the post. It was so special and warming. It would be perfect on a snow day like today.

December 21, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

I just ate the last of the beef that I made last November and froze. It freezes really really well. I just loved your recipe. I am going to make a big pot again soon and freeze it for future dinners. I just make some fresh pasta when I defrost one of these!

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLara Alexander

Lara: Thanks for letting me know how it turned out. I'm thrilled you liked it and want to make it again. Merci!

P.S. I just read several posts of your blog and I LOVE it. I'm a Pacific Northwesterner by birth (Portland) and have good friends and family in Seattle. Your blog is a joy to read; it makes me want to come home. Thanks!

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Wow. That looks amazing. It looks like a lot of prep time goes into this recipe. I'll bet it's well worth it, though. I've never attempted to make French food before, but you are tempting me to try this dish. I love all of the pictures, too. You have a lot of talent. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

Budget Recipes and Crafts

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHope

Thanks, Hope! There is definitely some prep involved but, as you say, it's totally worth it. I'm glad you like the photos. Thanks for your comment.

February 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterAngela

Hi Angela, love your cooking and enjoy your dishes very very much...I have made this dish for a table of 10, doubled up the recipe (cooked in two batches) and served wine poached pears as desert....there was nothing left on the table at the end of the dinner....I have added cascabel peppers in the stew before putting it in the oven, and they became the secret element....

Thank you so much for sharing your recipes, love and beyond....

And please keep posting.... :)

January 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSima

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