My Recipe Box

Beef Bourguignon


Serves eight to ten.

This classic French braise is undeniably a project, but it is well worth the time. The secret is to modify your braising pot with an interior parchment and concave foil lid, which keeps the atmosphere moist and lets the juices penetrate back into the fibers of the meat. Plan to start the preparations early one evening and finish the braise the next morning.

For marinating the beef:
  • 2 bottles full-bodied red wine
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs. roughly chopped parsley stems
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 6 lb. beef blade roast or beef chuck, trimmed of all external fat and cut in 1-1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
For the braise:
  • 2 ham hocks, fresh or smoked
  • Coarse salt
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil; more as needed
  • Stems from 1-1/2 lb. button mushrooms, caps reserved for the garnish
  • 6 to 8 cups veal stock (or turkey leg stock or beef stock)
  • 1 bouquet garni of 10 parsley stems, 1 sprig thyme (or 1/4 tsp. thyme leaves), and 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cubes beef bouillon, crumbled
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the garnishes:
  • 12 oz. lean, meaty slab bacon, top layer of fat removed and fatty ends trimmed
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 36 small white onions
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbs. stock or water
  • Reserved button mushroom caps (or larger mushrooms, quartered)
For thickening the sauce:
  • About 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • About 4 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For serving:
  • 5 slices (1/3 inch thick) country French boule, cut in half, a crustless triangle cut from each half
  • About 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley; plus more whole leaves for garnish

Before beginning, choose a 7-quart heavy, nonreactive (enameled cast-iron or stainless steel) braising pot. cut a round of parchment paper an inch larger in diameter than your pot's lid. Set the pot on a sheet of heavy-duty foil and cut a square large enough to cover the bottom and wrap up and around the sides above the top of the pot. Wrap the foil up and around the sides of the pot, molding it to form a well-defined angle where the bottom meets the sides. Flatten the foil well against the sides. Set aside these foil and parchment lids.  

To make the marinade:

Empty the wine into a large nonreactive saucepan, add the shallots, and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced to 1 qt., about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

In a bowl, toss together the onions, carrot, thyme, bay leaf, and parsley stems. Spread half of this mixture on the bottom of a nonreactive baking dish.

Mix the allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in a small dish. Sprinkle the cubes of beef with the spices and then toss with the olive oil. Arrange the meat on top of the aromatics in the baking dish and then cover with the remaining aromatics. Pour the cooled reduced wine over everything, using your fingers to make room between the meat for the wine to enter (don’t toss yet). The wine should just cover the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and punch a few holes in the plastic (so sulfur gas from the onions can escape). Refrigerate and marinate for 3 hours. Toss the contents, cover again with the plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

To prepare the braise:

The next morning, cover the ham hocks with cold water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil with a dash of salt and simmer until softened, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, drain the marinated meat and aromatics in a colander set over a bowl (reserve the marinade). Remove the beef cubes, dry them thoroughly (I roll them in an old, clean dishtowel, but paper towels are fine), and set aside. Pat dry the aromatic vegetables. When the hocks are soft, drain them and cut or pull off the rinds. Scrape the rinds of all extra fat. Cut the rinds into 1-inch squares; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high. Salt the pieces of beef lightly and sear them in batches until browned on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes, adjusting the heat so the meat doesn’t burn. Transfer to a plate.

In the oil left in the skillet, add the drained aromatic vegetables and the mushroom stems. Sauté on medium high, stirring often, until the vegetables cook down and soften, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the vegetables to a plate. Sop up excess oil in the pan with a wad of paper towels. Add a cup of stock to the skillet and scrape up the caramelized juices. Pour the deglazed juices into the braising pot.

Heat the oven to 325°F. Add the reduced wine marinade to the deglazed skillet (or a saucepan, if the skillet is too small) and bring to a boil, letting the liquid reduce by one-third. Strain the marinade through a fine mesh strainer directly into the braising pot.

Add the reserved pieces of rind to the braising pot, along with the browned meat and vegetables, bouquet garni, garlic, bouillon cubes, and pepper. Pour in enough stock to just cover the meat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Lay the parchment round over the braise so it's touching the liquid, folding the excess up the sides of the pot. Put the inverted foil lid over the parchment, adjusting as needed to fit tightly all around the pot. Fold down the foil so it hugs the pot's outer walls; trim the excess with scissors. Cover with the pot lid and bake until the meat is extremely tender and a metal skewer penetrates a piece of meat and comes out without resistance (a meat thermometer should read at least 165°F), 2 to 2-3/4 hours.

To prepare the garnishes:

While the beef is in the oven, cut the bacon into strips 1/3 inch thick, and then cut across the strips to create 1/3-inch thick slices, called lardoons. (If you put the bacon in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, it will be easier to cut.) Cover the lardoons with cold water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to remove the smoky flavor and some saltiness. Drain well and pat dry. Heat 2 Tbs. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and brown the lardoons on all sides until they’re golden but not crisp or brittle, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the lardoons to a paper-towel-lined plate. Discard the fat in the pan but leave the caramelized juices.

While the lardoons are browning, bring about 1 qt. of water to a boil. Add the onions, simmer for 1 minute, and turn off the heat. Remove a few onions. When they’re cool enough to handle, cut off the root end, slip off the skin, and cut a 1/8-inch-deep cross in the root end to prevent the onions from falling apart during cooking. Repeat with the remaining onions.

Add another 2 Tbs. butter to the pan with the caramelized bacon juices and sauté the onions on medium heat until they’re golden brown, about 10 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add 2 Tbs. stock or water to the pan, and roll the onions in the forming glaze. Transfer them to the plate with the lardoons.

Without cleaning the pan, melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter and sauté the reserved mushroom caps (or quarters) on medium-high heat until they begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan, turn the heat to medium low, and cook until the mushrooms have given off all their liquid, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium high, uncover the pan, and cook until the liquid concentrates again and the mushrooms turn shiny, about 5 minutes. Transfer them to the plate with the onions and lardoons.

Set aside the skillet, but don’t clean it (if there are black or burned bits in the pan, remove them).

To thicken the sauce and finish the braise:

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pieces of meat from the braising pot to a bowl. Strain the sauce that remains through a fine strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids. Let stand until the fat has completely surfaced. Remove the fat using a gravy separator, a basting tube, or a spoon. Wipe the braising pot dry.

Set the reserved garnish-cooking skillet over medium heat. Deglaze the pan by pouring in some of the defatted sauce and scraping up the caramelized juices. Add this deglazing liquid to the defatted sauce.

Return the sauce to the braising pot, passing it through a fine strainer, and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, knead together the butter and flour to a paste, called a beurre manié. Using a whisk, rapidly blend small amounts of the beurre manié into the simmering sauce until it is the consistency you like. You may not need all the beurre manié. Simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes. to cook off the raw flour taste.

Return the meat and garnishes to the pot with the sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Shake the pan back and forth on medium low to blend the elements. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, leaving the lid askew so steam can evaporate (trapping the steam would dilute the sauce). Correct the final seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve the braise:

Heat the oven to 275°F. Set the bread triangles on a baking sheet and top them with a cake rack to prevent buckling. Bake until dry, turning once, about 8 minutes.

As close as possible to serving time, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan until it starts shimmering. Fry the bread, a few pieces at a time, until golden, turning once. Drain on a thick layer of paper towels.

Transfer the finished braise (well reheated, if necessary) into a deep country dish or platter. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and arrange the croutons alternated with parsley leaves all around the dish.

Make Ahead Tips

The braise can be completely prepared up to three days ahead, allowed to cool, and refrigerated. To serve, reheat gently but thoroughly to at least 165°F, and let simmer while preparing the croutons.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on ten servings, Calories (kcal): 920, Fat (kcal): 57, Fat Calories (g): 510, Saturated Fat (g): 22, Protein (g): 74, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 26, Carbohydrates (mg): 18, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 4, Sodium (g): 940, Cholesterol (g): 260, Fiber (g): 2,

Photo: Ben Fink

Wonderful dish when complete but I agree with many other takes so long to prepare. It's not difficult, just time consuming. I substituted beef demi-glaze for the bouillon cubes but followed everything else exactly. If I were to make this again, I would definitely make it a day or two in advance.

The end result is delicious, but the amount of time needed to prepare the dish puts it out of reach for the average person. 2 days of cooking for one entree is too much, no matter how good it is. I am an experienced cook, comfortable trying new recipes, but this is one I won't make again without some modification to shorten the prep time.

Absolutely loved the analysis and walk through of the process. But while we should all appreciate the analysis and the "why" behind the recipe and process, less complicated variants work just as well (sorry). I have made many many roasts with all meats and in many different styles. Understanding the chemistry behind the dish helps with reducing the complexity. The prep process can be cut down unless you really want to impress a professional chef. A high quality stock is extremely helpful here. A great alternative to your own or high quality stock is fond veau--a high quality dehydrated veal demi glace from France. Adding a bit of veal Demi glacé helps a lot. Don't get the industrial version with corn syrup (yuck). A Dutch oven is just fine without the extras in this recipe. The right wine is vitally important and makes a big difference. No two roasts or stews are fhe same because no two wines are the same. The lower the acidity in the wine the better. Sorry, but this is true. A salt variant that works really well is a high quality well aged soy sauce. It makes for a richer sauce. I do indeed like the cognac addition. Cognac is underused in cooking and imparts wonderful favors especially so in shellfish dishes.

I'm thinking about making the dish, but am confused about the inverted lid made out of aluminum foil and parchment paper. Can anyone elaborate?

Huge effort. Many layers. Would I make it again!? Yes, for a special occasion. Two days on one dish is generally not worth it, but this one deserves your attention.

Huge effort. Many layers. Would I make it again!? Yes, for a special,occasion. Two days on one dish is generally not worth it, but this one deserves your attention.

Huge effort. Many layers. Would I make it again! Yes, for a special,occasion. Two days on one dish is generally not worth it, but this one deserves your attention.

I made this for my entire family for Christmas Dinner last year. They absolutely loved it....but word of caution as the recipe states. Start EARLY! It was too much to do even having started early in the morning. But absolutely Worth It!

I host dinner parties regularly, and have never had a hit recipe like this one! At the end of the night, my friends literally brought the Dutch oven over the table and just sopped up every drop of stew with leftover bread. And this was after everyone fought over seconds! This recipe is not difficult, but it is lengthy and takes a good deal of work. Definitely worth it!

I made this in 2000 and remembered it being a lot of work. The cold weather enticed me into making it again, and it still seemed like a lot of work for one meal. However, everyone who had it absolutely loved it. I made it with a full bodied cabernet sauvignon this time and it came out beautifully.

I will start off by saying that this recipe is a lot of work.....a lot! However, it is so worth it. I did everything exactly as the recipe called for and it came out AMAZING! I served mine with egg noodles and it was perfect. It was rich in flavor and worth every calorie.

Madeleine, for the last few days I have been scouring the internet looking for Bourguignon recipes, intending to make my own recipe by taking the most appropriate of the ingredients from the recipes I found, and a few small "flourishes" of my own. I have not eaten Beef Bourguignon for two years to this point, and I am developing a growing craving for this wonderful braise. On thursday (today is monday), I will be purchasing a 5.5 litre enamel/cast iron pot especially for the purpose of cooking my Bourguignon. But imagine my joy when I came across your recipe yesterday ! Thankyou for publishing such a wonderful Bourguignon recipe ! :-) I also very much enjoyed your Beef Bourguignon "Master Class". It has inspired me to make the very best bourguignon I can & the tips and hints you provided in the class were a godsend & very educational from a general cooking perspective as well. Thanks again for a superb recipe & fantastic "Master Class", Madeleine :-) Tony

I made this recipe years ago when Fine Cooking first published it and it was a huge hit with my dinnr guests. That dinner party is still mentioned occasionally. However, as tasty as it is, it was the most tedious thing to make. What I remember the most was having to pick the meat out of the pot piece by piece not once but TWICE!! Easier said than done after cooking it to the required very tender stage. I've thought of trying it again, but can't face spending several evenings working on the same dish.

When I was Amy Adams' age, and going forward for the next decade or so, I cooked this recipe more than once. It is unbelievably delicious. You must follow all of the steps and use the correct ingredients to achieve the sublime finished dish. Shortcuts, such as buying ordinary bacon will not "ruin" the end product, but they will diminish the "tasty" factor. Each shortcut makes the dish a little less sublime and a little more ordinary, but it is never less than an eight on a ten-point scale if you more or less adhere to the instructions. Ditto Julia's cassoulet. It is among the best things I have ever tasted in my life, and one of the most time-consuming to prepare. I remember reading a humor article one year around Thanksgiving, and the writer wondered if her family really thought she was addle-brained enough to spend three days preparing a meal that would be consumed in thirty minutes. She has a point, of course. You either love to cook, or you are, indeed, sick of looking at the dish after hours and days of preparation.

I made this dish this weekend for a dinner party. While I found it to be very tasty (and all of our guests raved), I'm not sure I found it worth the amount of effort required. The previous reviewer found it to be "sublime," and I'm not sure I could go that far. To be fair, I think of the six people eating this dish Saturday evening, I was probably the least impressed. Maybe I was just sick of looking at it by then.

After eyeing this recipe for a couple of YEARS, I finally made this New Years day. It is SUBLIME! The flavor of this dish is far and above anything I have ever made, or eaten at many fine restaurants. Please follow all of her advice and tips and go to the trouble of finding all of her preferred ingredients; you'll be rewarded with the most succulent meat and a sauce that I can't find the words to describe how incredible it is. This is the gold standard for beef bourguignon, and I can't wait to make it again!

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