Beef Bourguignonne: Now Faster Than Ever!

bourguignonneIt finally got cold in Houston.  Hallelujah.  Yesterday was consistently in the 40’s, so I thought to myself, “Self, what is your favorite thing to cook when it’s cold?”  The answer was obvious.

Beef Bourguignonne, the red wine braised stew made famous in the states by Julia Child, and once again by Amy Adam’s mangled pronunciation in Julie and Julia (BOOOOF!), is a traditional, hearty dish that hails from Burgundy, in the east of France.  It’s one of those “peasant” dishes that once again proves that necessity is the mother of invention.  And in this case, the mother of deliciousness.  Beef Bourguignonne is typically cooked in a cast iron crock pot, which allows one to sear the beef and get the stew started on the cooktop, and then braise at a low temperature for a good while in the oven.  This cooking method ensures the most tender, flavorful meat, while the sauce boasts perfectly blended flavors.

Anyway, I went to the store and got the essentials:  beef stew meat, mushrooms, some Beaujolais (which I only used a little to cook with; you can guess what happened to the rest), thyme, onion, etc.  I’ll write the recipe in a second.  I start poking around Andy’s kitchen for a dutch oven that is oven safe.  I know I’ve made this before over there, but I have no idea what I cooked it in previously.  He has a tiny crock pot, but…meh.  Suddenly inspiration struck.  I’ll use the electric pressure cooker!  That way I can shorten the cooking time and get back to finishing up the complete series of House.  Sidebar:  We have watched seven seasons so far.  That show gets really bad, guys.  And it’s really weird to marathon a procedural.  There’s no arc.  It’s just hour after hour of watching a curmudgeon  be curmudgeonly and then hours after watching of being convinced I have lupus or Huntington’s disease.

Blah.  So, I decided to blend the old and the new.  My pressure cooker has a sear and saute setting, so I maintained the classic practice of searing all of the meat, cooking the onions with the tomato paste, etc.  I skip the traditional pearl onions, as to me, those are exclusively for cocktails. It also drives me bonkers how people still stick to the old “serve with boiled potatoes or egg noodles!” nonsense with this.  How boring.   I roasted some sliced fingerlings, and that was awesome.  Still not an overpowering flavor to go alongside such a bold dish, but more exciting than boiled mush.  So, overall my cooking time was about 30 minutes, which is quite an improvement over the 3-4 hours braising time you usually get with this meal.  Tomorrow I will further explain pressure cooking, as it is one of my favorite cooking methods, but this is getting long enough already.

Beef Bourguignonne

Olive oil, as needed

3 oz diced pancetta

1.5 – 2 lbs of beef stew meat (get the bigger chunks, not the little bits)

2 T All Purpose Flour

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 T tomato paste

3/4 – 1 C red wine (don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink.  Most French reds will do here.  Maybe not Pinot Noir, though.)

3/4 C beef stock

8 oz sliced mushrooms, sauteed

4 stems of fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt and Pepper, as needed

Pressure Cooker Method

Heat pressure cooker on medium high heat or turn on the sauté function.  Add some olive oil, and then the pancetta.  Cook until crisp and then remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.  Set aside.  Dry off the beef very well with paper towels, then season well with salt and pepper.  Sear the beef on all sides, in batches, in the pressure cooker.  When it is all seared, put the beef all in the cooker,  add the flour, and stir until the beef is completely coated.  This will help thicken the sauce as it cooks.  Set the beef aside.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute until translucent.  Add the tomato paste and stir together with the onion.  Cook for 2 minutes or so, or until the paste turns more rust colored.  Add the beef & pancetta back in, along with the bay leaf, thyme, wine, stock, a little salt and pepper, and the sauteed mushrooms.   Set pressure cooker to high and cook for 10 – 12 minutes, depending on how much meat you used.  After that, release the pressure carefully.  Once it has all released, remove the lid, and take out the bay leaf and thyme stems.  Check your sauce.  Is it thick enough?  If not, while keeping your sauce simmering, roll together some softened butter and flour in a bowl and drop in little chunks one at a time, whisking them in.  This is called beurre manie, and it’s like a reverse roux.  It’ll get your sauce thickened up and shiny.  Taste for seasonings.  Add more salt and pepper if you need to.  Otherwise, enjoy!  Serve with roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, a side salad, whatever you decided to make.  It’s also great on its own.

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