Boeuf Bourguignon

by Anne Bennett on January 13, 2010

I saw the film, “Julie and Julia” three times and loved every moment Meryl Streep was on the screen. She virtually “channeled” the 6-foot-tall, eccentric, brilliant, charming Julia Child, and perfectly evoked Julia’s joie de vivre (joy of life).

Needless to say, the film featured some of the dishes Julia adapted for the American kitchen in her legendary two-volume tomes, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. The one dish that made movie-goers drool, several times, was Boeuf Bourguignon, or beef stew made with red wine. After seeing the film the first time, I wanted to head straight to a French restaurant and order a glass of red wine, some brie cheese with french bread (also featured prominently in the film, drool again) and this stew.

Boeuf Bourguignon with all the flavor and half the points of the original!

Boeuf Bourguignon with all the flavor and half the points of the original!

Instead, I headed home to replicate the original recipe. I’ve owned both volumes of her cookbooks for 25 years; most of that time they’ve remained on my cookbook shelf. Why? I made Julia’s “Lasagna a la Francaise” twenty years ago for Easter, and while it was the most delicious lasagna I’d ever eaten, it took four grueling hours of cooking and pot washing before I even got the casserole into the oven. Julia doesn’t take shortcuts.

At about that same time a re-run of “The French Chef” was airing with Julia making the lasagna. I tuned in to watch, thinking that they’d have to really abbreviate the recipe to get it to fit into a half-hour time slot. She entered her TV kitchen saying, “Zut Alors! (Oh No!) Friends have just telephoned saying they’re on their way over and you want to make them dinner but you have so little time. What are you to do? Lasagna a la Francaise to the rescue!”

What, I thought, is this the same recipe? If friends came to MY house and I made this dish, we’d be eating at midnight. Alas, it was the same recipe, but Julia pulled all of the already-cooked ingredients out of her refrigerator, saying, “Good thing you had some leftover sauteed spinach from last night’s dinner. And those leftover mushrooms will come in handy too. Oh, and we can use that leftover tomato sauce.”

How times have changed.

But I digress. No surprise, Julia’s boeuf bourguignon takes the better part of a day to prepare. Among other labor-intensive tasks, you have to individually saute the pearl onions and the mushrooms in separate pans. With a good deal of butter.  And the beef has to cook slowly in a 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours before you put it all together. The result? Nothing short of fabulous, but like the lasagna,  it’s a commitment, of time, effort and calories.

So when my January/February, 2010, issue of Weight Watchers Magazine came in the mail and I saw an article about the film with a less fussy–much less fussy- makeover of this stew, I went for it.

Some observations: in her cookbook Julia writes that “the better the meat, the better the stew”. Her recommendations are as follows:  first choice is rump pot roast, followed by chuck pot roast, sirloin tip, top round and bottom round.

The Weight Watcher recipe calls for bottom round roast. When I asked the butcher at my local supermarket for this cut, he said, “That’s rump roast”, and that’s what he sold me. (21st century aside: butchers aren’t what they used to be. They don’t actually cut meat anymore, they just trim and re-package it, so many of them aren’t familiar with meat nomenclature.)

I served this with boiled baby Yukon Gold potatoes (I had two) and steamed (microwaved) baby peas to increase the veggies and decrease the need for more beef. Delightful.

2 lbs. bottom round roast, trimmed and cut into 3/4″ cubes
1/4 c. flour
1 T. olive oil
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can low-sodium beef broth
1 c. red wine
1 (16 oz.) package frozen pearl onions (I couldn’t find these so I used fresh)
1 (10 oz.) package cremini mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
2 T. tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. chopped fresh thyme (I just toss in fresh thyme sprigs; the tiny leaves fall off during cooking and I remove the stems later)
1 bay leaf
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 lb. carrots, thickly sliced
2 T. chopped fresh parsley

Toss beef with flour, heat oil in a large Dutch oven and cook beef in batches until browned. Don’t crowd pan or the beef will stew rather than brown. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Add broth, wine, onions, mushrooms, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper to pot. Bring to a boil, stir in the beef and reduce heat. Cover and cook on low heat for at least one hour. Stir in carrots and continue to simmer another 30 minutes, or until beef and carrots are tender. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Julia calls for straining all the ingredients into a big bowl and then boiling down the sauce until it’s thick. I simply ladled out some of the sauce into a separate small pan, added 1 T. cornstarch mixed with 1 T. water and boiled it for a few minutes, then added it back to the Dutch oven.

Serves: 6

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda January 16, 2010 at 5:52 am

Yum! Thanks for all the work you do to pass these recipes on, Anne!

Lin September 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm

I made this along with the chocolate cake for company last weekend; it was great.
Thanks, Anne. Is Julia leaving you time to cook?

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