If you love beef stew, you will love this classic French version, called boeuf bourguignon. Although putting boeuf bourguignon in the same category with common beef stew just doesn’t seem right. The first time I tasted this dish was in Paris, on our 9th wedding anniversary, sitting at a small restaurant near the banks of the Seine. The quaint little old place was made all the more cozy by the fact that it was raining heavily outside. After only a few moments spent looking over the menu I knew that I would finally get to try a true boeuf bourguignon.
The weather in southern Germany during the month of October brings the beginning of the grey season that inevitably lasts until April. Hearty stews are perfect for this time of year, served with a crusty baguette spread with fleur de sel beurre; an artisinal French sea-salted butter. While my favorite version of boeuf bourguignon is Julia Child’s from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I was drawn to Rachel Khoo’s lovely cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen, where she combines the bread into the stew as baguette dumplings. The dumplings are made using a stale, 2- or 3 day old baguette, with fresh herbs and milk before frying them in a pan with plenty of butter. To me, this sounded even better than the traditional classic which is often served alongside boiled or mashed potatoes.
The ingredients for boeuf bourguignon don’t differ that much from a typical beef stew, but features the addition of a dry red wine. As the most predominant flavor in this dish, you should choose a good quality, rich, ruby-red wine that you would like to drink. I often choose a Corbières, Bordeux, or a Côtes-du-Rhône. You can find inexpensive bottles of these varieties and you may want to pick up an additional bottle as they pair very nicely with the meal.
There is no need to worry about peeling a dozen baby onions either. You can simply bring a pot of water to a boil, blanch them for 5 minutes, drain, and when they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and trim their root. I often throw in double of what the recipe calls for. The caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms are delicious with the gravy from this stew.
As for the dumplings, they are very simple to make. The hardest part for us is letting a baguette sit around a few days in order for it to go stale. I venture out almost every day to buy bread. No, we don’t go through that much, and honestly, we tend to waste a lot of bread because there are so many varieties here, and I want to try them all! Our favorite bakery has the most delicious stone-oven baguette. If you arrive there during the time they are baking, you may be one of the fortunate few to walk out with a hot, crispy, freshly baked baguette. Jason and I usually can’t resist breaking off an end to share before we even make it to the corner from the bakery. The crusty ends are our favorite part. When I saw her recipe included baguette dumplings, I knew exactly where to go for the perfect baguette. I bought two of them, knowing I wouldn’t be able to control myself all the way back home. Her recipe calls for 200 grams, which is a normal size baguette in the States. It is important to note: the bread must be stale in order for the bread to absorb the milk.
The boeuf bourguignon was delicious. I’ve made this dish previously from a couple different recipes and found this one to be a simpler version that matches even the complicated classic recipes in flavor. One very important step you should never skip is you must always brown the meat. Some recipes say you can skip this, but I disagree. You need to brown your meat to add depth and flavor to the sauce. Also, no need in flouring your meat in batches before browning it. I’ve learned in Joel Robuchon’s, The Complete Robouchon that after you brown the meat on all sides (roughly 5 minutes) in a butter/oil mixture over medium heat, sprinkle the cooked meat with flour and throw it back in the pan, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, just long enough to remove the flour’s raw taste, which works perfectly. The baguette dumplings were delicious and an excellent way to soak up all of that delicious sauce. This recipe is definitely a keeper!
Adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in combination with The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
900 grams (2lbs) of stewing beef, cut in large chunks
1 T. olive or vegetable oil for browning the beef
2 T. plain flour
150 grams (6 oz.) lardons or bacon
small bag of pearl onions (15-20 in bag)
3 cloves of garlic
2 bay leafs
1 bunch of fresh parsley
1 spring of thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
500 ml (2 cups) of red wine
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) of water
2 T. tomato paste
12-15 button mushrooms (quartered)
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 150° C (300°F)
Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof casserole pan over high heat and sear the meat in batches until they are well browned on all sides. Set aside on a plate.
In the same pan, cook the lardons (bacon) until they are brown and crispy. Add the onions and garlic and cook til lightly golden browned. Add ground pepper. Return the meat and any juices to the pan. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and cook 5 minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Add the bay leaf, parsley, thyme and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the wine, water and stir in the tomato paste. Bring everything to a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and place the pan in the over for about 3 hrs or until meat is tender.
About 20 minutes before serving, add the quartered mushrooms to the stew. Remove the bay leaf, parsley bunch, and thyme springs. Taste for seasoning. Garnish the stew with chopped flat-leaf parsley and serve with Baguette Dumplings or boiled/mashed potatoes.
Adapted from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
200 grams (1 normal size) stale baguette
250 ml (1 cup) milk
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1-2 T. plain flour
butter for frying
Cut the baguette into small cubes and place them in a medium bowl. Bring the milk to a boil and pour over the bread. Stir the bread mixture to make sure the milk is absorbed evenly, cover and let it sit for 15 minutes. Season with freshly ground nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir. Add the parsley, egg and sprinkle the flour over the mixture. Wet your hand and mix everything together. If the mixture is too wet (should only be slightly sticky) add a bit more flour.
To cook the baguette dumplings, melt butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook the dumplings until they are golden and crispy on all sides.
Garnish the stew with freshly chopped parsley and serve with the dumplings.