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Recreating Classic Recipes: Beef Bourguignon

December 26, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

I know, I know – this is the wine blog, and I’m sure you are surprised with the number of food posts lately. I guess this is all because of the holidays? Well, but then this blog is all about “wine, food and life”, so I guess talking about the food is quite appropriate. Anyway, we will be talking about food today – but this food is made with wine, so we will technically cover both subjects.

When it comes to the French cooking, there are a few dishes which squarely belong to the so called “classic category”. Beef Bourguignon is definitely one of them, fighting for supremacy with Coq au Vin. Today we will be talking about Beef Bourguignon, a.k.a. Boeuf Bourguignon, a.k.a. Beef Burgundy, a stew-like dish, generally attributed to the Burgundy area in France. I personally like all of the stew style dishes, as they generally are easy to make and very rustic and comforting as food, which to me is a very important characteristic.

Main components of Beef Bourguignon are beef, wine, few of the vegetables and aromatic herbs. For a while, I had being making Beef Bourguignon using the recipe from the book called “France: A Culinary Journey”, which is quite simple. In a nutshell, you quickly fry beef, onion carrots and celery together on the high heat, then add the wine and aromatic herbs, close the cover, and let the magic happen over the next few hours. Then I came across some recipes on internet which were a lot more complex, with marinating the meat, boiling the wine before cooking, adding bacon and mushrooms, and so on. After reading through probably 5 or 6 different recipes, all claiming originality and “classicism”, I decided that I have to come up with my own, as none of the recipes  really spoke to me. Before I will talk about the recipe itself, let me give you couple of the points I find important.

Wine: The source of this recipe is Burgundy, so stick with the classics on this – Pinot Noir is your ideal case, but I also have done it a few times with Gamay wines (Beaujolais), and it worked quite well. In the wine, you are looking for acidity and light fruity profile. In general, avoid high alcohol, aggressively fruity wines – they will impart an unpleasant flavor. The wine doesn’t have to be expensive, but general rule is very simple – cook with the wine you want to drink.

Marinating the meat: based on my reading and conversations, marinating the meat in the wine is an essential step. It seems to be highly recommended for both Beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin, so I’m going with this. I usually marinate the meat in the wine for the kabobs, which tenderizes the meat and makes it to absorb the flavor, so this definitely makes sense to use the same approach here.

Bacon: My general notion is that bacon makes everything better. However, in the case of Beef Bourguignon, the recipes usually call for making of the lardons (fried square pieces of bacon), which are then added to the meat during the last 15 minutes of cooking. As you are not cooking with an actual pork fat, I see such an addition only as textural, and I don’t believe it adds anything to the dish which is already quite rich, so here I’m saying no to bacon.

Okay, enough of the introductions, let’s proceed with the recipe.

Beef Bourguignon:

Prep time: about 1 hour. Cooking time: About 3 hours.

6 lb beef for stew – use  stew-cut meat from the good store, or take chuck or roast cuts and cut them into 1″ – 1.5″ cubes)

1 bottle of red wine – Pinot Noir or Beaujolais

5 large onions (one for marinade, 4 for cooking)

10 sticks of celery (2 for marinade, 8 for cooking)

4 large carrots (I really mean large, thick carrots – if they are thin, double the amount)

1.5 lb of whole mushrooms

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

4 cups beef broth

2 sprigs of thyme

6 fresh bay leaves

1 tsp allspice

1 tbsp peppercorn

Olive oil for frying

Salt and pepper

Serve with: boiled potatoes (classic!), egg noodles, pasta

As a first step, you need to marinate the meat, preferably overnight, so you should start cooking in the evening of the day before. Take two stalks of celery, cut in half. Peel one onion, cat in four pieces. If you are using the whole piece of meat, cut it up into 1″ – 1.5″ chunks. Put celery and onion into the large bowl, put all the chunks of meat on top, pour in a bottle of wine. The wine should fully cover the meat – if it is not – sorry, get another bottle. Take cheese cloth, put in 3 bay leaves, a sprig of thyme and allspice. Tie cheesecloth together and put it into the same bowl with meat. Cover, and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, get the bowl out of the fridge, strain and reserve all the liquid (you will use it for cooking). Discard celery, onion and herbs, let the meat to drain completely and warm up to the room temperature.

meat after marinating

Meat after marinating

Now, you can start with vegetables. Dice all of the the onions and start sauteing it in the skillet with the small amount of oil – use medium heat. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the vegetables. Dice the celery, put aside. Cut up the carrots in the big chunks – round slices of about 3/4″ in size. If the carrot is too thick, you can first  cut it in half lengthwise. Put aside together with celery.

Carrots and Celery

Carrots and Celery

Wash and cut up mushrooms into the half or quarters, depending on the size of mushrooms.  Start sauteing the mushrooms in the separate pan with small amount of olive oil and medium to high heat.

Sauteing the mushrooms

Sauteing the mushrooms

Cover the pan initially, as you want mushrooms to release the water, stir a few times. After 3-4 minutes, remover the cover and let the liquid to evaporate. Continue cooking for another 5-6 minutes, or until the liquid will completely evaporated and the mushrooms are lightly fried. Add celery and carrots to the same pan, mix and continue sauteing for about another 10 minutes, stirring periodically.Turn off the heat, put aside.

Roasting all vegetables together

Roasting all vegetables together

After about 10 -15 minutes of sauteing the onions (they should gain color and become translucent at this point), turn off the heat and set aside.

Time to start working with the meat. First, we need to sear it. Put the cast iron casserole on the high heat (definition of the high heat depends on your stove – mine is electric, and if I use the highest dial setting of 10, everything burns before it sears, so my high heat setting for the cast iron vessel is 8). Add couple of tablespoons of the olive oil, and let it heat up. Put the flour on the plate, add salt and pepper, and drench the first batch of meat in the flour.


Beef in flour, ready to be seared

Once casserole is heated up sufficiently, put the meat inside in the single layer, and don’t touch it for about 3 minutes. Turn around, and let it sear for another 3 minutes – you want to get a nice color on the meat.

Prepare the next batch of meat (drench in the flour). Remote the seared meat to another plate, and repeat the process until all the meat is seared. Once the last batch is seared enough, splash some of the reserved wine into the casserole and use your spatula to deglaze it. Reduce heat to medium-low, put back all the meat, add sauteed mushrooms and vegetables. Pour back the rest of the reserved wine, add four cups or beef broth. Prepare the bouquet garni: take cheese cloth, put in thyme sprig, 3 bay leaves and peppercorns. Tie together and put in the casserole (immerse in liquid). Give the content of the casserole a good steer. Cover with the lid, pour yourself a glass of wine and relax, your work is mostly done.

Check the casserole periodically and give the content a good stir every time. Make sure the liquid is slowly simmering and not rapidly boiling – reduce heat further if it is. Also, check the sauce for salt – adjust the amount to your liking. The cooking process should take about 3 hours from the moment you combined all the ingredients – check the meat periodically to see if it is done to your liking. Tougher cuts of meat might take a little longer.

When done, remove the bouquet garni. Prepare your favorite starch and … voilà! You are ready to serve Beef Bourguignon and accept complements from your guests. Of yes, and I hope you didn’t use all the wine – you might enjoy some with your dinner.

Beef Bourgoignon

Beef Bourguignon

So, what do you think? Do you have your own twist for Beef Bourguignon? What do you think of this recipe? Cheers!


  1. PSsquared
    December 26, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    What? No bacon? 🙂 It sounds and looks delicious. Enjoy!

    • talkavino
      December 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      Thanks! Yep, no bacon this time : )

      • Emil
        December 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm

        I would have kept the bacon too …. Bacon makes EVERYTHING taste better :))))

        • talkavino
          December 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm

          it does, with the exceptions : )

  2. Emil
    December 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Looks great! Wish I was there 😛
    I stick to the classic Julia Child’s version. Also, TO ME the most important thing is to cook it the day before you consume… When cooked properly most of the connective tissue and fat in stew meat dissolves and you have pulled beef were you to serve it right away. Cooling it overnight allows gelatin to set preserving the shape of the meat even after its reheated. Extra “rest” time also allows the flavors to develop. Not having to cook the main dish while the guests are over is a free bonus 🙂

    • talkavino
      December 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      thanks! cooking the day before is not always possible, but you can cook before your guests arrive : )

  3. December 26, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Your recipe is great, the only thing I beg to differ with is the bacon. I like to saute the meat in a mixture of bacon fat and olive oil and cook the lardons with the stew. I sort of follow Julia’s recipe, I say sort of because I tend to cut corners a bit. Your bourguignon looks wonderful and I think it would be absolutely delicious. I agree about the wine, you inspired me to make this again.

  4. December 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    One of my favorite winter comfort dishes. It’s especially perfect on a snowy evening, after a day spent skiing or skating. (With good friends, and near a fire place, drinking wine, of course). Bacon or not wouldn’t matter much to me. As long as it has mushrooms.

    • talkavino
      December 27, 2013 at 6:04 am

      Thank you Tracy. I have done this dish both with and without mushrooms, and I like it more with mushrooms – the mushrooms are staying : )

  5. December 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Great recipe – perfect for a wine blog. I shall try it out later in the week – adding items to grocery list now. 🙂 I like your preparation immensely – and we don’t eat pork. 🙂 You have some great recipes and it’s nice that you share them. And the wine recc’s, of course. Have a fantastic week! Shanna

    • talkavino
      December 27, 2013 at 6:03 am

      Thank you, Shanna, you are too kind! Somehow I don’t feel that bacon would improve this dish in any way – it is perfectly rich as it is, and the key ingredients are wine and the beef – no need to complicate things. Cheers!

  6. Fig & Quince
    December 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I’m loving the food posts!! Plus, this recipe has wine as an ingredient, so apropos! I’ve only had B.B in restaurants, never made it myself. Seriously tempted to give your recipe a try.

  7. December 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Once again I find myself drooling, it’s just not fair! I personally add white pearl onions and less carrots. I have used Pancetta in the past, but it is not necessary as it detracts somewhat from the beef. Keep ’em coming, I will be home in my kitchen next week and will be making this dish for sure! Ps.I also use a Syrah based wine in mine. Salut my friend….

    • talkavino
      December 28, 2013 at 6:57 am

      I liked carrots for the visual contrast (but they taste good too). I saw the white pearl onions in a number of recipes – I think my kids would have an issue with those, so I had to skip them.
      I’m sure you can make the stew with any wine, Syrah included – as long as it is nice and balanced. Cheers!

  8. December 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Guess what I’m having tonight?! Thank you for posting! I’ll admit that I’m not one to strictly adhere to one BB recipe or another – it can be whatever you want it to be (I ordinarily do use the bacon, but tonight’s version will be using a rendered prosciutto, just to mix things up). Yours looks great! Yum!

    • talkavino
      December 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      Thank you! Enjoy the cooking!

  9. December 29, 2013 at 12:09 am

    Mushrooms are a must, I also use bacon. I also add a roux at some point early in the boiling process…when it comes to wine, I rely on my Burgundy exchange family that, when asked what wine to use, simply replied “low shelf in the supermarket” which translates to 3 to 5 euro pinot noir in Burgundy. I have used chianti before.

    • talkavino
      December 30, 2013 at 12:09 am

      I agree on the wine – I always stick to the basic Pinot Noir or Beaujolais – however, my main rule is that even if the wine is cheap, it still have to be drinkable. I had a couple of cheap Burgundy wines which I was unable to drink at all – I would not put a wine like that into the dish.

  10. January 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Yum! What a great recipe, Anatoli: I love beef bourguignon and yours looks just great!

    • talkavino
      January 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks, Stefano! I will make it for us one day : )

  11. January 9, 2014 at 10:11 am

    This is a great recipe, Anatoli! I have never made it so I “must try” your version! Love your wine suggestion. That’s exactly what my cooking school teacher in Milan used to say: when you cook, don’t use cheap wine. Go with the good stuff! 🙂

    • talkavino
      January 9, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Thank you Francesca! You should definitely try making it – it is easy and fun! I’m sure Stefano will find you a good bottle to cook with : )

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