Learning to make beef bourguignon is one of our most popular classes. During the fall and winter months, who doesn’t like a warming, nourishing, and elegant French stew? As a teaching tool, this one dish packs lots of skills: butchery, knife skills, sauce making, and cooking with wine. Win-win.
Stewing and braising are similar in that both methods cook slowly in moist heat, and thus are most suited to tougher cuts. The primary difference is the size of the meat cuts and the amount of liquid used. Cooking a large cut of meat like a leg of lamb or a pork shoulder partially covered in liquid is considered braising. When the meat is cut off the bone, cubed into uniform pieces, and completely submerged in liquid—as this recipe calls for—the method is referred to as stewing.
- Yield: 6 to 8 Servings
- 8 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced (optional)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 1½-inch cubes, any silver skin or
- sinew removed
- 1 pound (4 to 6 cups) button mushrooms, trimmed and
- 1 quartered
- pound multicolored carrots, cut into 2-inch obliques
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- Fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
- ½ cup cognac or brandy
- One 750-ml bottle of dry red wine
- cups beef stock or chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pound pearl onions, peeled
- 1 to 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon, if using, over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add olive oil to the rendered fat as needed to cover the bottom of the pot. Add as many pieces of beef as will fit in a single, uncrowded layer. Sear, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides. Transfer the browned beef to a plate and continue searing the remaining beef in batches, adding more oil if needed. Do not crowd the pot.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms begin to brown; then add the carrots and garlic. Season the vegetables with salt and stir in the tomato paste, if using.
- Carefully pour in the Cognac and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Return the beef and bacon to the pot. Add the wine and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the thyme and bay leaves.
- Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 2½ hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Alternatively, you can place the covered pot in a 300°F oven for 2½ hours, checking after about 1½ hours and then at about 30-minute intervals.
- While the meat is stewing, bring a pot of water to boil, add the pearl onions, and then remove the pot from the heat. Let the onions sit in the hot water for 30 seconds. Drain and let cool. Peel the onions, keeping the hairy bottoms intact.
- Add the peeled pearl onions to the stew about 30 minutes before the stew is done.
- When the meat is tender but not falling apart, finish the dish by adjusting the seasoning and adding the Dijon mustard and black pepper to taste. Skim any fat off the top with a large spoon and discard before serving. Serve with rice, polenta, or roasted potatoes.