I am not a huge fan of Beef stew but this turned out fantastic. Beef Bourguignon is basically Coq Au Vin with beef. I prefer Coq Au Vin but beef was the request. I believe it had to do with the movie when the blogger Julia makes the Beef Bourguignon for the food writer and she ends up burning it, staying home the day next to make it again and in the end the writer doesn't show. I can tell you, it doesn't take much effort to get this right.
This is what we did for 10 people and there wasn't a drop left.
Chunk of bacon cut into small sticks – 8 ounces. ( I used a smoked ham hock and a few slices of bacon instead )
4 lbs. of stewing beef cut into 2 inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into small pieces
1 sweet onion thinly sliced
2 1/2 tbsp. flour
3 cups of a full-bodies red wine. ( I finally bought a case of inexpensive wine for cooking – I used a Malbec but a Chianti would be great too )
2 – 3 cups of beef broth
1 Bay leaf
1/2 tsp. thyme
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 bags of pearl onions
1 1/2 lbs of cremini mushrooms, quartered
Preheat the oven to 450.
In a nice sized Dutch Oven ( I prefer the Le Cruset pots ), cover the bottom thinly with olive oil or vegetable oil over a high heat. Add the bacon/ham hock and turn the heat down to medium low. I let this saute for about 5-6 minutes or until the fat started to render in the pot. Once that has happened, take the bacon/ham hock or whatever you used out and set aside.
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium high. Put about 8 cubes of meat in at a time, leaving space in between each of them, and brown. At one point, I poured in a little more olive oil because the pan was getting burnt so keep olive oil on hand. When each piece gets browned, take each out and set in a bowl.
Once all the meat is browned, add in the vegetables. Saute on a medium heat until browned. I had very little fat in the pot so I didn't pour anything out after this. If the vegetables are sitting in fat, although browned, take a slotted spoon, take out the vegetables and set in a bowl. Then pour the fat out of the pot, use a paper bowl to wipe it down and continue.
At this point, the vegetables are back in the pot ( or they never left ). Add in the meat and bacon. I took out the thin bacon which I used just for flavor but did put back in the ham hocks because they are substantial in terms of heft. Then sprinkle the flour over the meats and mix. Once the flour is completely incorporated, put the pot, uncovered, in the oven and set a timer for 4 minutes. When the timer is up, take the pot out of the oven, mix again and then put back in the oven again for another 4 minutes. The meat should get a little crispy and the sauce, actually oil and meat drippings, will have thickened. Turn the oven down to 325.
Now, back on the stove, pour in the 3 cups of wine. Gauge how far up the meat is covered. You want the meat barely covered. I poured in 2 cups of beef broth after that and was fine. Go with your gut. Add in the tomato paste and the bay leaf and thyme. I put the bay leaf and thyme in a small cheese cloth satchel so it didn't mix into the sauce. Makes life easier in the long run.
Pour this back in the oven, and let cook for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat can easily be pierced with a fork.
While the beef is cooking, do the onions and mushrooms. The key to the pearl onions is putting them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then strain and cool down with cold water. You can cut the end of each onion and then using your fingers, pinch the onion and the skin should easily slip off. Josh mastered this by the end. Once you have finished all the onions, put them in a small saute pan and almost cover them with beef broth. Bring to boil and then down to a simmer, cover and let braise for about 40 minutes. Once done, drain the broth, put the onions back in the pan and let them hang out on the stove until later ( no heat ).
The mushrooms, once quartered, should be browned in 2-3 tbsp. butter and possibly a little olive oil as an extra bonus. Once they have browned, just turn off the stove and let them hang out.
When the stew is ready to come out of the oven, pour the mixture into a strainer ( sieve ) over a saucepan. Put the meat mixture back into the pot (minus the sachet of thyme and bay leaf). Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. The sauce should be relatively thick. If it isn't, boil it down a bit regardless boil it down for at least a minute or 2. Worse case scenario, take equal measurements of butter to flour ( 1 tsp of each ) and mix into a paste. Put that into the sauce and whisk until the sauce gets thick. I can't imagine that might happen but you never know. The sauce should be pretty thick coming out of the oven.
Mix the mushrooms and onions with the beef and bacon. I took the ham hock pieces that I could find out at this point because some had a bone on it. Once this is all mixed up, pour the sauce back over the meat and serve. I served rice on the side and a simple salad but egg noodles is more classic.
This can easily be made earlier in the day. Once you strain the sauce, let that sit separate from everything including the onions and mushrooms and put everything back together ( warm the sauce ) before serving.