boeuf bourguignon mishap
i made this last night, following exactly the recipe in "the joy of cooking" and it was not very good. despite marinating overnight and simmering for over two hours, the beef never got "fork tender" and the sauce ended up tasting like a beef stew i could have whipped up in an hour. does anyone have any idea what could have gone wrong, or an alternate recipe to use next time?
A couple of thoughts - first, marinating the meat is for adding flavor and it doesn't have any tenderizing effect, so what you have is beef that you've stewed for 2 hours, which is marginal for making most good stewing cuts really tender. I have the JOC recipe in front of me and it specifies a total of 3 hours of cooking, which is usually sufficient to take care of just about any cut of beef.
I like to use chuck for beef stew, and to start from a single piece, cutting it into the larger pieces that I prefer. Much of what is sold as stew beef in the markets is from the round and is cut too small, IMHO. Round doesn't have enough fat and collagen to stew up tender and juicy.
There are lots of variations on boeuf bourgignon, but I've always used Julia Child's recipe from Vol. 1 of Mastering and I've never been disappointed. It differs from the JOC recipe primarily in the brown braising separately of pearl onions and button mushrooms, which are added back into the stew at the end.
I second the "what cut of meat did you use?" question, and add this-- if you "simmered" vigorously (aka. boiled) the meat won't tenderize-- it needs to be cooked at a bare simmer (180-200 F) for at least 2 hours. Boiling (212 F) can have the opposite effect and make the meat dry and tough. For a complete explanation of this phenomenon, consult McGee's "On Food and Cooking". I usually make stews/braises in the oven (300F-- heat transfer from oven to pot is not 100%) to keep the heat slow and even.
Actually, McGee says exactly the opposite. In his original book (On Food and Cooking) there's little discussion of the subject, but he does specifically cite 212 as the best temperature for the collagen-to-gelatin conversion that's the reason for long braising/stewing (p.111). There's a much more extensive discussion of the subject in Chapter 3 of his second book (The Curious Cook), in which he actually tested recipes at different temperatures and concluded that there's no advantage to the "low and slow" technique, except for tender cuts that don't require long moist-heat cooking techniques in the first place, which is not what you'd want for boeuf bourgignon anyway. He does mention that an advantage of not stewing at a boil is that it will make it easier to skim off any fat, but otherwise it just takes longer to achieve the same result.
I use the Barefoot Contessa Paris cookbook recipe for mine, and it is excellent and easy. Check it out.
Here's one to try that's a favorite at our house.
Boeuf Bourguignon Rude Manor
This stew has a deep rich complex broth. The secret is browning the beef well and using the deglazed pan juices as the base of the sauce.
4 pounds beef chuck roast (weight after trimming)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 large leeks -- cleaned well, chopped, white part and some green
1 medium onion -- chopped
3 cloves garlic -- peeled and lightly crushed
black pepper -- fresh ground
1 bunch carrots, small -- peeled and sliced 1-2 inches long
1/2 bottle good red wine
1 cup beef stock -- canned ok
1 rutabaga -- peeled, coarse dice
1 turnip -- peeled, coarse dice
1 large parsnip -- peeled, coarse dice
3 large white rose potatoes -- peeled and cut in large chunks
1 28 oz can peeled plum tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter -- room temperature
Brown the beef - Trim all fat, sinew and connective tissue, and cut the meat into large chunks, at least 2 inches square. Heat the peanut oil in a large heavy pan (cast iron is best) over high heat. Add the beef in batches and brown well on all sides. Don't crowd the pan or the beef will steam instead of browning - do it in batches, and regulate the heat so the pan browns the beef but doesn't smoke the kitchen up too much. Remove chunks to a bowl as they're done and salt and pepper generously.
When all the beef is browned well turn the heat down to medium high and add the onions and leeks to the empty hot pan. Stir and scrape the residues in the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon until all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot have come loose and mixed with the onions. Add 1/2 cup of wine and stir once more to combine. Transfer this mixture to a heavy stew pot large enough to hold all the beef and veggies. Add browned beef and any juices. Add carrots, turnip, rutabaga, parsnip and potatoes.
Add the stock and rest of the wine, and stir. Add tomatoes and juice and stir again. The liquid should almost cover the ingredients. Raise heat to high and bring to a boll, stirring once or twice. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for 2 hours, stirring once or twice an hour.
Test a piece of beef - it should be very tender. Mix the flour and butter together with your fingertips and stir into stew to thicken sauce. Serve with more red wine and some good crusty bread.
NOTES : This is really at its best the day after it's made. Be sure to put a good coarse salty hot sauce on the table so adventurous diners can mix a little into the stew.This may seem like a large quantity, but it freezes beautifully.
None of my French cook books calls for turnips or ratabagas. Only one says to add potatoes, but I usually don't, preferring to serve this with egg noodles.
Carrots, onions and mushrooms are browned in the oven in rendered salt pork fat, set aside, and added toward the end (about the last 25 mins. or so). Rinse the salt pork first, then make lardons about 1/8" thick, 1/4" wide, and 1" long. You add the crisp, browned salt pork to the meat and use the fat to brown the veggies.
The meat I use is the usual stewing beef, but it normally takes closer to three hours, without a lid, to cook properly in the oven, and reduce the amount of liquid into a rich gravy. If it looks like it's getting too dry, I add more wine.