Losing yourself in beautiful Burgundy
The Burgundy region of France is best known for wine, even lending its name to a shade of red. Rolling hills of harsh land sprouting some of the best grapes in the world, it’s easy to see why many a connoisseur will make the pilgrimage to the vineyards.
However, there’s more to this paradise than just wine. In many ways, Burgundy is to France what the Tuscany region is to Italy. It’s not heavily known for historic sights, monuments, and other usual attractions that draw tourists. Instead, it’s the kind of place where one goes to unplug and leave the world behind, with an accompaniment of the gourmet glory of French cuisine.
A trip to Burgundy would be ideal with a stay at a local farm, or small village with rooms to rent. One shouldn’t miss market days, when the streets are full of colors and flavors from the local merchants. Truly a festival for those seeking natural, high quality culinary items. That or a long slow cruise down one of the many canals in the area, with plenty of good wine and tasty French delicacies for a relaxing day.
When it comes to Burgundian cuisine, tradition reigns over trends. There is a rustic, peasant ideology to their dishes, but all carry a true gourmet quality that’s ecstasy for your taste buds. Escargot (which you should try at least once in your life) is a familiar staple of the Burgundy region, as is the delectable coq au vin (“cock au vwah”), a chicken stew braised in red wine. Game meats, wild mushrooms, and freshwater seafood hold much love in Burgundy, as well as a regional variety of cheeses, sausages, patés, and terrines (coarsely chopped meat formed into loaves with fresh herbs and gelatin).
Beyond snails and other delicacies stands Burgundy's biggest donation to the culinary landscape, Beef Burgundy, otherwise known as Beef Bourguignon (“bur-ghen-yahn”). I was first introduced to the dish through a foodie on Reddit simply known as callitarmageddon. He had posted his own take on pot roast, which intrigued me. After doing a little research on the technique, I found he did a slight variation on Beef Bourguignon. Nothing wrong with that either.
The dish itself is a beautiful stew of beef first browned in bacon fat, then stewed with a variety of vegetables and plenty of red wine. It almost made me think it was a beef version of the Chicken Mirepoix I made in the past. Regardless, a pot of this amazing French stew will make mouths water and hopefully transport you into the slow time of the Burgundy region.
Don’t forget to have a good red reserved for when you serve the dish.
- 4 lbs of bottom round roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3/4 lb of smoked bacon, diced
- 2 small onions, chopped coarsely
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped coarsely
- 4 stalks of celery, chopped coarsely
- 8 oz of mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups of beef broth
- 6 tbsp of flour
- 2 cups of red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp of dried thyme
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
- 1 can (6 oz) of tomato paste
- Olive oil, if needed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat your oven to 325°.
- On your stovetop, heat up your Dutch Oven on medium-high.
- Using paper towels, pat the beef pieces dry, then season with salt and pepper.
- Drop the bacon into the Dutch oven and cook until crispy. You should see liquid formed in the pan.
- Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.
- Working in groups, place the beef into the leftover liquid and sear until a nice brown crust forms on all sides. Use some olive oil if your pan dries up.
- Remove and set the beef aside.
- Lower the heat to medium, and pour in a little more olive oil if needed.
- Add in the onions, carrots, and celery. Stir and sauté until they soften.
- Bring in the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another minute.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the flour.
- Continue cooking and gently stirring for a few more minutes.
- Pour in the wine and broth, deglazing the pan by scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon.
- Stir in the tomato paste, thyme, and oregano. Also season the stew with salt and pepper.
- Place the beef, bacon, and bay leaves into the pot.
- Continue cooking until the liquid starts to boil, then cover and place into the oven.
- Braise the stew for 60-90 minutes, or until the meat is fully cooked and the sauce thickens.
When you’re initially heating up the Dutch Oven, do not add any oil or anything. When you start cooking the bacon, the fat will render and leave all that perfect grease to sear the beef with.
Be patient in searing the beef. Work in small groups and don’t crowd the pan, or else liquid is released and you don’t get a nice crusting on the outside.
After adding in the mushrooms, be sure to stir gently. Stirring too harshly will break the mushrooms into bits. We want to try to keep them solid.
If you can land a nice Burgundy wine for the sauce, go for it. Any decent dry red will do though.
When you’re in the final braising, check on the stew every thirty minutes. If it seems the sauce is thickening too quickly, then add in some water. If not, then leave be.
The use of carrots and celery is optional, as many recipes will not use them. I personally like them, as there isn’t that deep a “tradition” with this dish. The usage comes down to your personal taste.
Some will also like to use pearl onions over chopped ones. If can find them in your frozen foods section, give them a go.
Healthy It Up
Beyond using a leaner cut of beef, if you really wanted to “healthy up” this dish, you could forego the bacon and just use olive oil. However, this is one of those dishes where you’re honestly better off not cutting out what might be seen as “unhealthy”. Live a little.
It’s best to serve Beef Bourguignon with a nice starch to soak up that wonderful sauce. I’m a fan of just peeling some potatoes, cutting them into fourths, coating with oil, and baking in the oven until perfect. Others will use mashed potatoes, rice, egg noodles, or even spätzle.
I’d also suggest a good red wine to compliment this wonderful stew. Personal choices would be a French Burgundy or Pinot Noir.