What do you make for the co-author of the book, My Life in France? The memoir of Julia Child’s years living in France was a massive international bestseller and beloved by her fans. To me, there was only option: Beef Bourguignon.
This recipe is featured in my first podcast episode, when I chatted with Alex Prud’homme, the great-nephew of the late great Julia Child on her co-author on the book. We discussed why she chose this particular dish as the star of her very first episode of the TV show that made her famous, “The French Chef.” Listen in.
Julia Child described beef bourguignon as a “perfectly delicious” dish. She explained to viewers she chose it to “show you so many useful things about French cooking.” She’s right. You brown meat, saute mushrooms and onions and create a hearty sauce all in one dish.
(You can watch the original episode via Amazon Prime for three bucks.)
This dish was a touchstone for her, Prud’homme said. “It was the recipe she would come back to again and again.”
The origin of beef bourguignon
Beef Bourguignon originated in Burgundy, a picturesque French region located about 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Paris. In that area, the dish is made with its celebrated Charolais beef. The steer are fed only hay, fodder and cereal to produce famously tender meat. The simple beef stew began as a peasant dish and evolved to a bistro classic that’s served in white linen restaurants worldwide.
Auguste Escoffier, the chef responsible for codifying French cuisine for the ages, first published a recipe for beef bourguignon in the early 20th century. His version featured one large piece of beef, a dish that would be more akin to American pot roast. It was Julia Child who introduced the idea of cubed beef, as the dish was more commonly served in Parisian bistros.
I love this dish. It has a few time-consuming steps but teaches some deeply useful skills. Once it’s in the oven, you can just let it bubble and simmer away. Like many braises, this tastes better the day after you make it, so it’s a great option if you’re entertaining guests. Just reheat and serve. Voila.
Instant pot vs. Dutch oven
You can make this in an Instant Pot or slow cooker and it will be fine. But I recommend going old school and making it in a Dutch oven. Evaporation of the cooking liquid is a key part of the cooking process, as food writer Kat Kinsman found when she tested all three methods.
Beef stew à la Bourguignonne
Marinade for beef
- 2 ½ to 3 pounds about 1.5 kg lean beef stew meat cubed
- 1 750 ml bottle of red wine such as Syrah
- 2 medium carrots chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped (about 1 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves peeled, smashed
- Parsley stems from one bunch
- ½ teaspoon thyme bay leaf
- ½ cup 125 ml Cognac or brandy optional
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces thick-cut bacon or ham cubed
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups 500 ml roasted chicken or beef stock
- 3 garlic cloves
- ½ sweet onion sliced
- 8 ounces 250 grams mushrooms, sliced
- 1 medium carrot chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped (16 oz can)
- 2 medium white potatoes peeled, cut into ½ inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar optional
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Combine meat with marinade ingredients in a large, non-reactive bowl, stir to mix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Strain the marinade into a large pot, reserving the liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil while you prepare brown the meat.
- Remove the meat from the strainer to a plate. Dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Add oil to a large Dutch oven or 6 quart or larger pot over high heat. Brown the meat in batches and set aside. Lower heat, add the ham or bacon. Cook slowly until slightly browned. Remove half, set aside to add before serving.
- Add the meat, the vegetables from the marinade and herbs to the pan with the bacon or ham. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Add tomato paste and stir through until hot. Add the boiled wine and stock. Bring to a bubbling simmer, cover, and put into the oven for an hour and 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Add the garlic, sliced onions, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes and cook until the meat and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Check seasonings, add salt and pepper if needed. Add the reserved bacon or ham, balsamic vinegar and parsley. Serves six to eight.
- Follow directions to marinade the beef and then boil the separated liquid on the stove while you brown the meat and cook the bacon on the saute setting. After adding the marinade liquid and stock, cook at high pressure for 35 minutes. Let the pressure go down naturally.
Beef stew photo by Veronika Struder. This page contains affiliate links.