When I say that I love Fall, I’m not messing around. I love the shorter days, the cooler air, the long sleeves, and scarves. The fallen leaves that crunch under foot usher back childhood afternoons spent riding bikes and throwing footballs with my siblings and cousins, the time of year they would actually include me in things. Usually a game of keep-away, in which I was the kid in the middle. To this day, the aching feeling of washing my freezing hands under warm water makes me nostalgic. For most families, fall is a time when we collectively re-acquaint ourselves with our ovens. When baking gets back into full swing and we fight to keep the season in our hearts and not on our waistlines. It’s most definitely a time for comfort food. And for me, that usually means something savory, cooked for a long time. Something warm that fills the belly and goes well with wine. Lots of wine. So, I welcome my best season in with my own version of the iconic Boeuf Bourguignon, a French stew made famous by the incomparable Julia Childs. I use Bordeaux wine, which I love madly. So, technically, Beef Bordeaux. Make sure to buy an extra bottle or two of wine, I’ll remind you to keep drinking.
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Lbs beef stew pieces (2 inch cubes)
6 Oz bacon diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 C low sodium beef broth
1 Bottle Bourdeaux wine
4 Shallots diced
3 Cloves garlic peeled & smashed
1 Large carrot peeled & sliced thick
Zest of one orange
Juice of half an orange
6-8 Crimini mushrooms cleaned and quartered
10 Oz frozen pearl onions, thawed and drained
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp tomato puree
2 Tbsp flour
1 Bay leaf
4 Tbsp butter (divided into 2+2)
2 Finger pinch red pepper flakes
Kosher or sea salt
Cracked black pepper
So, let’s be clear, you’re cooking three separate parts of this dish, then putting them together to create something magnificent. So, put your apron on, pour a little (or a lot of) wine and get ready for some cookin’! We are starting with the beef and bacon. Then addressing the onions. Lastly, the shrooms.
For the beef:
Preheat oven to 325°
Pour yourself a glass of wine for sipping. In a dutch oven or an oven-safe, heavy bottomed pot w/ lid, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat. Pat beef cubes dry & season with salt & black pepper. Working in batches, brown all sides of the beef cubes, setting the browned pieces aside in a large bowl. Remember not to try and fit too many pieces into each batch. If you crowd the pan, the beef won’t brown, it will steam. When I say “brown”, I mean dark brown and seared. Not that grayish brown which comes from gently heating beef.
After removing the last of the beef from the pan, add the bacon, shallots, red pepper flakes and garlic to the pan. Stir to combine and again every 30-60 seconds. Allow the bacon to brown a bit. After 2 minutes, add the carrots & thyme. Have a sip of wine. Now is a good time for that. Add tomato puree and flour, stir to combine. Add beef cubes and juices back to pot. Allow to heat about a minute, stir again. Raise heat to medium-high & add wine, reserving about 1/4 cup for the onions. Stir to combine. When the wine starts to simmer, add beef stock and stir. Add bay leaf and orange zest. Bring to a soft boil, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook 2 1/2 hrs.
For the Onions:
About an hour before the beef is done, start your onions. If you haven’t finished that glass of wine, do it now. In a medium sauce pan (one with a lid) heat 2 tbsp of butter and 1 teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Add the pearl onions and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally to brown the onions, being careful not to handle them too much. Once the onions have browned, about 10 minutes or so, add three sprigs of thyme (no need to chop or separate the leaves, just toss the whole sprigs in), orange juice, 1/4 C reserved wine & 1 cup of beef stock. Cover & simmer 30+ minutes. You want most of the liquid to be evaporated. Not completely dry, a little reduction in the pan is perfect. Remove thyme stalks and set onions aside, keeping them covered.
For the Mushrooms:
In a cast iron or heavy bottom skillet over medium heat, add remaining 2 tbsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil. When butter melts and starts to foam up, add mushrooms. The overcrowding rule applies here, too. If you need to work in two batches to allow mushrooms to brown, this is fine. Once you place the mushrooms in the pan, leave them be for at least 1 minute before turning. You want a nice golden brown on all sides. Remove mushrooms to a plate and set aside. Pour another glass of wine.
Once the beef has finished cooking, remove from oven, uncover and stir. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits of flavor stuck to the bottom. You may have noticed that I haven’t instructed you to add any salt. Now is the time. Taste the stew and season with salt & black pepper, to taste. I like to allow the pot to sit and mellow out for 10 minutes or so. Add the onions and mushrooms to the stew and serve. I like to fry slices of french bread in olive oil and serve alongside the stew. You can also go full-on French and serve with some fancy potatoes. Whatever floats your boat. Hey, guess what? You just made a seriously delicious meal. Sip your wine, pat yourself on the back and dig in. Way to go, you.