I’ve made beef bourguignon probably about… 2-3 times by now and each of those times, I didn’t like it. The sauce was too bitter, too sour, too something that wasn’t pleasant. I really wasn’t quite sure why people were so crazy about this dish. Sure, the name sounded fancy, but did people really enjoy this dish?
Turns out, yes, people do enjoy this dish, including me–I apparently was just having bad beef bourguignon! Unfortunately for me, the recipes I’ve used in the past were inferior. This time around though, I wisely chose an Ina Garten recipe to make this French beef stew, and oh my, was it delicious! Queen Ina wins again! The original recipe is for 6 servings, but I don’t need that many servings and I didn’t have enough ingredients with the random items I had in my fridge. The pared down recipe I’m sharing will be for 3 smaller servings or 2 large servings. Ina serves this stew with a slice of crusty bread, but I subbed this for a creamy cauliflower-potato mash. Cauliflower-potato mash will have a nicer fluffier consistency than plain cauliflower mash and is much lighter than plain mashed potatoes.
Notes about this recipe! Ina calls for a dry red wine for this recipe. I know absolutely nothing about wine, so I was going to grab a red bottle of 2-buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. However, while I was wandering at Trader Joe’s, a store clerk suggested that I try cooking the beef bourguignon with a bottle of Pontificis wine, which is a blend of Grenache, Syrah (my favorite!), and Mourvedre. Turned out to be an amazing choice and not an expensive one either at $7 a bottle!
Pearl onions are used in this recipe, and depending on how much you care, you can get the frozen ones (I used these!) which will leave you with leftovers, or you can buy them fresh in the aisle with all the onions. Fair warning though, if you get the fresh ones, you will have to peel them, which can be a pain in the butt. I would go for frozen, or you can just omit them if you don’t want to bother. I don’t think it’s THAT big of a deal, but they are tasty to have if you can get them.
Speaking of onions, Ina uses yellow onions in her recipe for the base of the sauce, but I ended up using a red onion because I ran out of yellow onions and refused to go to the store. The substitute didn’t impart any crazy differences since you’re cooking them down a lot anyway so feel free to switch up your onions if you’re out of yellow onions!
Special equipment! You want to use a Dutch oven for this because you will need to toss it into the oven at one point in the cooking process. Why? Braising meats requires a piece of (generally tough) protein to be cooked at a low, constant temperature in some type of liquid (beer, wine, stock, etc). This method of slow cooking allows the collagen in the meat to break up into gelatin, which is what makes the meat tender. If you have the heat too high, the meat will get really tough because the proteins will quickly denature (without the collagen breaking down) too quickly and make the meat “tough” which is why you can’t boil this dish on the stovetop. Low and slow is the way to go! Dutch ovens and their heavy lids hold heat very well and can be placed into the oven, making this the perfect vessel for braises. Alternatively, you could make this in a slow cooker, but it’ll just take a longer length of time (6 to 8 hours vs 1.5 to 2 hours).
Quick disclaimer to the liquids (wine and broth)–I eyeballed those two when I threw them in, so if you need more broth, add more in. The original recipe mentions that you should add enough broth to barely cover the meat, so I recommend using the 2 cups as your baseline and add more if needed.
All right, let’s get to cooking!
Beef Bourguignon and Cauliflower-Potato Mash
- 3/4 lb (12 oz) beef chuck roast (or another tough beef cut, like top round), cut into 1″ cubes
- 2 small carrots, cut into 1″ chunks (100g)
- 1/2 of a medium onion, sliced (100g)
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 slices bacon, sliced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1.5 tsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp brandy (I used E&J VSOP Brandy)
- 1 cup dry red wine (I used Pontificis GSM)
- 2-3 cups beef broth (see note above!)
- 3 oz/100g pearl onions
- 5-6 crimini mushrooms (buy from the bulk bin!), stems removed and thickly sliced
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried thyme)
- 2 tsp flour
- 1 tbsp butter, room temperature
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 small Yukon gold potato, quartered (125g)
- 1/3 of a medium cauliflower head, roughly chopped (250g)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
- Preheat your oven to 250F (this works for folks at high altitude too!)
- Heat 1 tsp olive oil on medium in your Dutch oven. Once the pot is warm, add in your sliced pieces of bacon. Fry for 8-10 minutes, or until the bacon is lightly brown and slightly crisp. Scoop out the bacon onto a small plate or bowl and set aside.
- Carefully add your cut beef cubes to the pot so the fat doesn’t splash back at you. Once it’s all add it, give the beef a nice sprinkle of salt (about 1 tsp) and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Cook the beef until most of the sides have a nice brown sear on them, about 5-7 minutes total. No worries if you don’t get every single side–you just want most of it browned since that’s what helps add some flavor!
- Once the beef is browned, remove from the pot and set aside with the bacon.
- Add your onions and carrots to the pot and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown and caramelize. Make sure to give the onions an occasional stir so they don’t burn to the bottom of your pot!
- As the onions are starting to brown, add in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the 2 tbsp of brandy. It should rapidly boil once you add it to the pot. Use your wooden spoon to quickly scrape some of the brown bits at the bottom of the pot off.
- Add your wine, then add the meat and bacon back into the pot.
- Add the beef broth so it just barely covers the meat (may or may not take more than 2 cups), then stir in your tomato paste. Give everything a quick stir to combine, then add in your thyme sprigs. Bring it up to a boil, cover the pot with the lid, then take the pot off the heat and put it into the oven. Cook for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Mine was ready in 1.5 hours.
- While the meats braise, let’s make the cauliflower-potato mash! Put chopped cauliflower and quartered potato into a medium sauce pot and add enough water to cover them. Also add 1/2 tsp of salt to the water. Bring the pot to a boil on the stove and cook for 12-15 minutes, until you can pierce the potatoes easily with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes and cauliflower, then place into a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a rough chop. Add some cream and run the food processor again, slowly adding the rest of the cream. Run the processor until the mash is a smooth consistency. Add salt to taste. Once done, set aside in the pot you boiled the potatoes and cauliflower in so you can heat it up again later if you need to warm it a bit before serving.
- A few minutes before you take the Dutch oven out, melt 1 tbsp of butter in a saute pan and saute your mushroom slices on medium high for 4-5 minutes so they’re nice and brown. Set aside.
- Then mix the room temperature butter with flour to make a paste. You’ll mix this into the stew once you pull it out of the oven. This will create a silky texture to the sauce.
- Take the Dutch oven out and set back onto the stovetop on medium again. Stir in the butter/flour mixture until well-mixed, then add the mushrooms and pearl onions. Bring the stew to a boil for 10-15 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Scoop out a portion of cauliflower-potato mash into a deep plate or a bowl, then add the stew on top to serve. Enjoy!
A bit of a lengthy recipe, but I thought it was worth the effort. Give this recipe a shot and let me know what you think!