22nd 2009
Best Beef Burgundy Ever!

Posted under: fluff

juliachildI’ve been on the lookout for a good recipe for beef burgundy for a long time.  For a while, famille Historiann was pleased with the Carbonnade a la Flamande recipe from Cooks magazine earlier in this decade, but quite frankly, it seemed like too much of a pain in the butt for me to do on a regular basis.  (Buying a special beer just for a recipe–seriously?  Too fussy.  I’m a proud cook, but not one who likes to buy all kinds of special ingredients for just one recipe.  Besides, having to remember to purchase more than 3 special ingredients at a time just leads to more trips to the supermarket for me.)

So, I’ve had to go and make one myself.  Voila Boeuf Bourguignon Historiann.  I took Jeff Smith’s basic beef burgundy recipe (from The Frugal Gourmet, 1984) , Julia’d up his rather slapdash techniques to amp up the brown fond flavors and umami, and added a secret ingredient:  fish sauce.  It makes so much more of a difference than you’d think.  I realize that Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce might be the kind of ingredient you’d buy for only one recipe, if you don’t already have a bottle lying around the house, but once you taste its awesome powers of transformation, you’ll find all kinds of things to use it in.  (And, it doesn’t go off very quickly, so it will be around quite a while.)

Boeuf Bourguignon Historiann

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces

3 pounds good stew beef, cut into 1″x”1 or 1″x2″ chunks, no larger

salt and pepper

2-3 yellow onions, diced

3 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

2 T tomato paste

3-4 C burgundy or other good red wine.  (No need to break the bank–just use something you wouldn’t mind drinking, even if you wouldn’t go out of your way to drink it.  I used Yellow Tail shiraz this week, and it tasted great.)

2 C beef stock (canned is fine, homemade is probably better but be realistic)

1/2-1  t thyme

1 bay leaf

3-4 good dashes of fish sauce (perhaps 1-1/2-2T?)

1 pound mushrooms, quartered (most recipes seem to call for the mushrooms to have been sauteed in butter in advance, but I’ve just thrown them in raw.  Next time, I’ll sautee the mushrooms to see if it makes a big difference.)

3 T each butter and flour to finish the sauce

Fry the bacon pieces in a dutch oven or other good, heavy-bottomed large pan to render the fat, strain out the bacon, and set aside.  Salt and pepper the beef liberally, and over medium-high heat, brown the meat in 2-3 batches in the bacon fat (don’t crowd the pan), making sure they’re browned all over, and set aside.  Turn the heat down to medium, and add the onions to the pan.  Fry for a few minutes, then add the garlic, taking care not to scorch the garlic.  After a few more minutes, add the tomato paste, and stir to coat the onion and garlic mixture.  Let the mixture start to stick to the bottom of the pan and brown a bit–but don’t scorch it.  Add the stock, wine, thyme, bay, and fish sauce, stirring to scrape off all of the fond and incorporate it into the cooking liquid.  Add the reserved beef and bacon, seal the pan with foil, and then cover with the lid.  Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours, then add the mushrooms and cook for another hour or so, until the beef is tender.

To finish:  make a roux with the butter and flour, cook it until it’s tan but not brown, and add it to the beef and wine mixture stirring to incorporate well.  Serve with buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, or polenta, as you like.  Tastes good the next day, and the next, too.

If you’re in the mood for another beef stew recipe, Erica at the good old days recently reported on an old recipe for “Hungarian Gulasch.”  The verdict?  “Dump everything in the CrockPot and wait! It turns into a sweet, zesty beef stew, great for a chilly night when you want hearty and comforting food without much work.”


11 Responses to “Best Beef Burgundy Ever!”

  1. Notorious Ph.D. on 22 Feb 2009 at 9:37 am #

    (And, it doesn’t go off very quickly, so it will be around quite a while.)

    I thought the whole point and process of fish sauce was that it *had* gone off?

    And if fish sauce goes off, how on earth would you know? Does it start to smell *good*?

    (Seriously, I’m a fish sauce fan, and I agree that three drops can transform so many things, but no one can tell me that it’s anything other than what it is.)

  2. Erica on 22 Feb 2009 at 10:18 am #

    Oooooh, that looks delish. It’s back down in the 50′s today (SC’s version of “winter”) and the wind is blowing, and I’d love to make this except I’m out of bacon. (And, unsurprisingly, also out of fish sauce.)

    But I’d ALSO like to know, how DO you know when it’s gone off :-D

  3. Historiann on 22 Feb 2009 at 11:07 am #

    Notorious and Erica–you’re right, of course. Fish sauce is like yogurt or vinegar–it’s pre-spoiled, which is the point, so it’s not like you can tell if it does reach the point of no return. (It’s so loaded with salt, too, that it will never grow anything, so even if it’s not prime, it won’t kill you…)

  4. Indyanna on 22 Feb 2009 at 11:58 am #

    Sounds heart-healthy, too, but I’m probably staying with the basic Flemish-beer based variety. And haven’t had a dutch oven around these parts since, well, since Ma passed on. But this will make whatever I DO have tonight seem pretty thin and un-wintry, I’m afraid. If I’m ever out Potterville way some blizzardy night, it would be worth breaking down at roadside to have a cook’s tour of this dish. I’ll bring the buttered noodles!

  5. Historiann on 22 Feb 2009 at 7:55 pm #

    I’ll be happy to cook up a kettle of BBH over the fire next time you ride through town, Indyanna, and for any other readers who need a meal as they pass through Potterville!

  6. Miriam on 23 Feb 2009 at 9:29 am #

    This is too funny – my secret for amazing carbonnade is a big glop of hoisin sauce, born in an experimental moment and now de rigeur. The sugars compensate for the bitterness that very dark ale can have, just like the funkiness of fish sauce helps complement the sugars in red wine, and it makes the whole thing deliciously savory in a “what-IS-that?” way. Great minds think alike.

  7. figleaf on 23 Feb 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    Thanks for the tip, Historiann! I was in the middle of making a big pot of Tuscan bean soup (from a Cooks Illustrated anthology issue) and (taking another tip from your Gulasch callout) just after throwing the sauteed ingredients into the crock pot I added a few dashes of fish sauce.

    I remember reading that the old Romans allegedly were wildly fond of a condiment based on fish sauce (garum or garaum, I think?) that was popular all over their empire. Including, presumably, both France and Tuscany. It’s not a one-to-one substitute but I’m guessing you can use fish sauce in almost any recipe that calls for small amounts of anchovy paste… which is one of the secret recipes in a lot of old Italian dishes.

    As for how it could go bad? I agree it’s hard to imagine it going any worse! But it really is seriously delicious.

    Anyway thanks again!


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