Sometimes after days of cooking and cooking and more cooking, all I really want to eat is the simplest thing. This summer it was a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad with olive oil and salt – I must’ve eaten that salad for lunch twenty times. With winter around the corner and a head cold hanging on for days now, I’ve been really craving meat. I needed a recipe that didn’t require much of me but that would offer a big reward in terms of flavor and comfort.
Beef Bourguignon, the long-simmered beef stew made famous by Julia Child, is the perfect choice for a cool-weather Sunday dinner. I simplified Julia’s already no-nonsense recipe even further, using only beef, bacon, onion, garlic, and tomato paste as the base. I then simmered the beef for several hours in approximately equal parts Red Burgundy wine and beef broth. The result was incredibly tender and unbelievable rich. We enjoyed the stew with simple mashed potatoes made with butter and sour cream, as well as some roasted Brussel sprouts from the farmer’s market.
Some may find a stew that takes several hours to cook overwhelming or tedious, but I couldn’t disagree more. I find it so rewarding to spend 30 minutes getting a dish off on the right foot and then allowing it to do its thing all afternoon while I spend the rest of the day doing whatever I’d like to. This dish is proof that with minimal effort you can end up with a meal that tastes incredibly rich and complex and feels wonderfully comforting.
3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ½” dice
3# beef chuck, cut into 1 ½” chunks
1 large yellow onion, medium dice
4-5 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 ½ C. dry red wine (more if necessary)
2 ½ C. beef stock (more if necessary)
S & P
In a large dutch oven or other heavy pot, brown the diced bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon leaving all of the fat behind. Season the beef chunks liberally with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and brown the beef chunks in batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Brown each chunk of beef on two sides, and then transfer to a plate until all of the beef is browned. This may require 3 or even 4 batches.
Reduce the heat to medium again and add the onions. Season with a little more salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another few minutes until fragrant. Lastly, add the tomato paste and stir to mix well, allowing the tomato paste to toast for a minute on the bottom of the pan.
Pour the wine into the pan and stir to bring up any bits that have become stuck to the bottom. Return the beef and bacon to the pan with any juices, and then add the beef broth so that it just covers the meat.
Increase the heat to high and cover to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low or medium low so that the liquid is at a moderate simmer. Simmer the stew, covered, for 3 hours checking on it once an hour to be sure it is still bubbling. If at any point the stew looks too dry, add a little more wine and/or broth to compensate. If the stew is still very liquidy after 2 hours, uncover it for the last hour of cooking.
When the stew is done, the beef will be falling apart-tender and the liquid will be reduced and thickened. Season to taste for salt (although it should need much more if any), and serve over mashed potatoes, creamy polenta, or just in a bowl all by itself.