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Nov 2, 2009 09:32 PM

was it boeuf bourguignon or pot roast?

Several years ago a buddy and I were strolling the Rue de Levis in Paris at lunch time. We stopped in a restaurant that was featuring beouf bourguignon. We both ordered it. It came, plated with accompanying vegetables. There were three or four 2 inch cubes of beef per plate. The beef was collagen rich, brown to black on the outside. It was tender, succulent and rich in flavor. We loved it.

I've since tried, unsuccessfully, to replicate. But I was trying to make a stew, bourguignon style.

Today, I had a eureka moment, thinking that this was made much like a pot roast that my mother used to make with carrots and onions and who knows what. I have to confess that I have never made a pot roast, in spite of the fact that I love collagen rich beef. The appearance of the beef served was much like my mothers pot roast except that it was in 2 inch cubes. The texture and exterior browning was much the same. The flavour spoke of boeuf bourguignon.

If I were to cube a collagen rich cut of beef, do you think I'm right track, cooking it similar to a pot roast.? If you think I am on the right track what considerations should I make since the meat is cubed - small pieces? All observation and suggestions are appreciated.

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  1. after I enjoyed Julia/Julie, I made the Julia Child beef bourguignon (sp?) from the Julia Child cookbook for a going away party for a foodie friend. It's not too hard, other than the pain of peeling all those little onions. My foodie friend afterwards gave me a hint of next time to purchase frozen pearl onions. It takes a full bottle of red wine. I just went to the butcher and asked for stew beef. We were at Fairways in Harlem, and I was delighted to find that the stew beef was prime! That certainly made a delicious beef stew.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jwg

      Frozen pearl onions are great but, if you want to use fresh, blanch them first and the skins will slip right off.

      1. re: bushwickgirl

        I just made boeuf bourginon Friday. I always buy a chuck roast and cut the pieces. I think that this yields a better result that already cut stew beef. Also, for this batch I used homemade beef stock and a chateauneuf du pape wine.

        1. re: cassoulady

          I made Julia's BB 10 days ago, with homemade brown veal stock that took another 2 days. I also used a boneless chuck roast because it cuts so cleanly along the seams of the meat. I agree with you that the quality of the meat is superior because who knows what part of the animal they're cutting up for "stew" beef. We ate it for several days and the process of reheating for so many days really broke down the meat (unfortunately it also destroyed the onions) and concentrated the stock and flavor. We froze the leftovers in Foodsaver bags and, in fact, are having some for dinner tonight with Pennsylvania Dutch egg noodles.

          1. re: TomSwift

            The problem that I've encountered with 'stew meat' is that it is often too lean, so the pieces cook up dry and stringy. Most likely it is from the rump. Lean beef needs to be cut thin, across the grain, other wise it is chewy, no matter how long it has been cooked.

            Chuck is much better for this purpose, consisting of smaller muscles with more connective tissue (that source of callagen). Short ribs can be good as well. But my new favorite is a nonstandard - beef shank.

            The principles for making a good burguignon are not that different from pot roast - an appropriate cut of meat, cooked in a well seasoned liquid, long enough to melt the callagen and tenderize the meat.

            However because it uses wine as the principle flavoring liquid, bourguignon typically has a higher liquid to meat ratio than pot roast. As demonstrated in Alton Brown's episode, pot roast can be cooked in a sealed foil package with seasonings, and little added it liquid. When done it will swimming in its own juices. In that sense bourguignon is more of a beef stew than braised beef.

      2. re: jwg

        I switched to using boiling onions, picking out the smaller ones in the mix. They are so much easier to peel, iirc just used my thumbnail to pierce the outside and remove the outer layer which leaves them roughly the size of pearls. No hassle of immersing in hot/boiling water, chilling, etc.

      3. Boeuf Bourguignon and Pot Roast are kissing cousins. In both, you braise a cheap cut of beef, then braise it until it is very tender. So yes, you are on the same track. Use a chuck roast and cut it up into 2" cubes yourself, after pulling it apart along its natural lines of separation. You can just chop up some onions if you are more interested in duplicating the taste than the specific, classic BB. It happens that I have an unglazed cast iron dutch oven that has been permeated with decades of bay leaf, clove, and onion from making my mom's beef goulash and pot roast. It contributes its own seasoning - for the heck of it, I once made the same dish in the enameled cast iron and it was not as good. So unless I am using wine, tomato, or other acid ingredients, I use the naked old one. You might want to start with what Mom made, in that it shows you how much flavor comes from just well-seared meat and just a few additions. Roughly, sear 2# cubed chuck in very hot oil until deeply browned, in batches if necessary. Throw in an onion the size of a large fist, peeled and coarsely chopped/sliced. Stir to loosen the fond, and turn down the heat to low. Add 2 small bay leaves, 6 whole cloves, and S&P. Cover and let simmer gently for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is spoon-tender. The onions will have just about dissolved. If the juices reduce too fast, add a few Tbsp water and lower the heat. The meat shrinks a lot and produces quite a lot of intensely-flavored sauce/gravy. No thickening required. Just noodles or mashed potatoes. Mom used the same procedure and ingredients for her pot roast - I add broth and tomato, plus more vegetables.

        6 Replies
        1. re: greygarious

          Thanks to all who replied. I'm not trying to make a classic BB. I'm thinking of a pot roast, previously described, with a BB infused flavor. I believe the restaurant did not flour the meat, there was no gravy ,sauce, or anything else, but the flavor of the meat was BB. It was chunks of meat served with sides. The appearance of the meat was like small chunks of pot roast, with the exterior browned and darkened on all sides.
          greygarious - what is a fond? You seem to understand my goal. My stove is gas, and my oven is convection gas. My pots and pans are stainless steel. If I read you correctly, you are suggesting stove top cooking through all stages of cooking? Or should I complete the dish in the oven? Completing the dish under low heat should have sufficient moisture from the wine and the vegetables? No need to immerse the meat in liquid? Should I baste periodically? Would it benefit by advance marinating?

          1. re: rosetown

            It sounds like you might like Alton Brown's technique for making pot roast. He sears it first (salt and pepper first) on the stove. In the same pan, he sautees the onions and garlic, adds liquids to reduce (you could use wine) but not a lot. Put the meat and the reduced liquids and onions and garlic in aluminum wrap pouch and bake. Oh, here it is, I found the recipe:


            You only need to follow the technique and not the ingredients. I do this in a dutch oven and add potatoes, etc. to it. No olives or dark raisins.

            1. re: chowser

              What would be a good substitute for wine in this low-moisture pot roast? A wine reduction? Or the combination of balsamic vinegar and raisins - the acidity of one balancing the acidity of the other, and both contributing the grape fruitiness?

              1. re: paulj

                The original recipe calls for tomato juice and balsamic but I have only done it w/ wine. Alton uses all, juice, balsamic, raisins and olives. I play around w/ what I have and do like it with prunes but it adds a sweetness my husband doesn't like in his meats.

            2. re: rosetown

              A fond is the browned bits that coat the bottom and sides of the pan after you brown the meat. The Maillard reaction is a technical term for the flavor compounds that are created when food caramelizes and this fond contributes a great deal of flavor. You can indeed do a pot roast or stew/goulash entirely on the top of the stove, but you will need to check and stir more often to be sure nothing is scorching. The meat does not HAVE to have a lot of liquid as long as you stir and turn the pieces every half hour or so. If you finish in the oven, you don't need to keep tabs on it as often. If you marinate the meat in advance, be sure to dry it thoroughly, and let it sit at room temp for a while to take the chill off before you sear it. The colder it is, the harder it will be to achieve a good sear and fond.

              1. re: greygarious

                Those flavor components can also develop during the braising stage, especially when using a covered pot (dutch oven) in an oven. This is most evident when I use a pot with a white enamel lining. The sides above the liquid, and the inside of the lid develop a caramelized film. Evidently cooking juices evaporate and condense, or droplets spatter, coating the inside surfaces of the pot. These surfaces get hotter than boiling, and produce the Maillard (or other caramelization) reaction. Any meat that projects above the cooking liquid also browns. I try to move it around, so no one part is exposed so long that it dries out. But I think this browning is part of what distinguishes a braise from a stew.

          2. I always assumed that the difference between BB and pot roast (recipe notwithstanding) is simply that BB is chunks of meat and pot roast is cooked as 1 whole piece.

            1 Reply
            1. re: CindyJ

              From fond to Maillard reaction. I can't thank all of you enough for setting me on the right track.

              Today I picked up a 4 quart dutch oven with campfire lid, all they had and unfortunately sand pebbled, but cheap, and a KitchenAid 5 quart enameled oval cast iron pot, again for cheap. Plus I have my inherited smooth bottomed 10 1/2 inch cast iron skillet from my mother.

              I' m on my way!! Thanks again to all.

            2. My landlord in Paris always made bourgignon and boeuf-carottes as a roast. Never saw her make a boeuf en daube but assume she would have done the same. I think it's a legitimate variation.