Good Eatin’ on the Dime: Baked beef bourguignon isn’t just snobby french food

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Good Eatin’ on the Dime: Baked beef bourguignon isn’t just snobby french food

A dish that has been referred to by multiple gourmands and chefs as essential to calling one's self a cook, Beef Burgundy is a mix of sweet, savory and bitter all in one package

A dish that has been referred to by multiple gourmands and chefs as essential to calling one's self a cook, Beef Burgundy is a mix of sweet, savory and bitter all in one package

Matt Cooper

A dish that has been referred to by multiple gourmands and chefs as essential to calling one's self a cook, Beef Burgundy is a mix of sweet, savory and bitter all in one package

Matt Cooper

Matt Cooper

A dish that has been referred to by multiple gourmands and chefs as essential to calling one's self a cook, Beef Burgundy is a mix of sweet, savory and bitter all in one package

Stews of beef, fungi, fish, veggies, and fowl have been comfort food staples for a long time.

As Greek historian Herodotus tells us, Scythian peoples in modern day China started boiling up meat soups found on the coast of the south China sea. According to his writings, they “put the flesh into an animal’s paunch, mix water with it, and boil it like that over the bone fire.”

Flash forward and European indigents and beggars need something both tasty and cheap to fill their bellies. The Burgundians of Dark-Ages France had a unique penchant for sophisticated poor-man dishes. It is this curiosity that gave us beef bourguignon.

For us non-Francophiles, let’s just call it beef burgundy. This is Kansas after all, not Chablis wine country.

Beef burgundy is a rich stew of dry red wine, tomato paste, thickly sliced braised beef, shallots, carrots, button mushrooms, and chicken stock that is a staple in French cuisine — and for good reason.

Sage chef and gastronomy author Julia Child once referred to beef burgundy as “the best beef stew known to man.” While Childs’s recipes for it were notoriously complex, beef bourguignon is still a dish of the people. Its ingredients are cheap and it can be prepared rather easily. In the end, beef bourguignon makes for a wonderfully sultry dinner entree.

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs lean boneless beef chuck

½ tbsp. onion powder

1 tbsp. fresh ground ginger

⅓ cup olive oil

½ cup all-purpose flour

Kosher salt

5 shallots

2 tbsp. tomato paste

5 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups red cooking wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 tsp. thyme

2 bay leaves

4 medium-size carrots cut into thin medallions

Optional:

8 oz. mushrooms (button or portobello)

Chopped parsley, for garnishing

Toasted bread for serving

*These ingredients will yield enough beef burgundy for three medium-sized servings, or enough to feed 2-3 people. Total cost, according to data collected from Aldi Groceries, Dollar General, Dillons, and Walmart, should not exceed $26.00. That’s about $8.30 per head.

Ingredient prep:

With a sharp kitchen knife, slice boneless beef chuck into two-inch long, index finger-thick hunks. Trim off fat if so desired. (Your beef may lose a bit of flavor post-braising and baking in doing so.)

Season the beef with salt, pepper, and onion powder, and let it rest while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Next, crush the garlic cloves. First, mince all cloves as thick as possible. Then, using the blunt handle of your kitchen knife, crush garlic until all is a uniform, sticky powder. This will ensure that the garlic disperses well through the beef.

Next, slice the shallots in half and cut all into discs crossways. Chop into desired length.

For the rest of the wet ingredients, measure each out into small bowls or measuring spoons. If you want to use a cooking oil that has a lower fat content, try one of the canola or coconut varieties. Make sure to avoid crumbling the bay leaves — this will leave the finished beef burgundy tasting chalky, and, at meal time, you’ll feel as though you’re shoveling in mouthfuls of autumn leaves.

Braising the beef

To prepare the slices of beef, pour the olive oil into a medium saucepan and let it simmer for about five minutes over medium-high heat. Once the meat is browned, remove from saucepan and rest it on a plate off to the side.

Searing some veggies

It’s time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Now, back to your saucepan. Lowering the heat slightly, place shallots in the skillet and simmer until all are yellowish-brown and halved in size. Within remaining the olive oil and seared shallots, pour your tomato paste and stir in crushed garlic. Stir the mixture, then drizzle in small amounts of red wine so as to avoid too much congealing of the ruby-red shallot sauce.

After two to three minutes, place beef back into the skillet. Add remaining wine and simmer for about five minutes. At this point, you’re ready to add the chicken broth, thyme, ginger. Reraise burners to medium-high heat until the burgundy comes to a boil.

Baking

Once the beef and veggie mixture reaches a boil, toss in a couple of bay leaves. Cover and let simmer in the oven for about an hour, until all the meat is tender. After removing from the oven, mix in carrots and mushrooms. Return pan to the oven and cook for 30 more minutes until the carrots are soft and bright orange and the mushrooms are a deep brown.

When finished, remove all bay leaves.

Garnishing and chowing down

Sprinkle bits of parsley on top of the finished beef burgundy. Note: the dish is awesome served with toast for dipping in the wine reduction sauce you’ve just made.

Why this beef bourguignon business?

Ultimately, beef bourguignon is a dish that, if prepared just right, is affordable and easy to make. It will please your stomach and those of your dorm friends alike. But, readying the French classic will prove something more.  

Cooking it will cement that you, the poor college student, rack-brained with that post-pubescent angst with which young scholars live and die by, will have created something of refined taste.

You will have achieved a self-reliance in cooking and eating something that is, simply, good food.