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Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon...so-so

I'm sure it was me but I prepared the famous recipe indicated above and it really was so very unmemorable. I used cubed chuck which ended up to be a bit tough (despite cooking it forever) and an inexpensive but basically drinkable Chianti. The only thing I didn't do was use slab bacon with the rind. I couldn't find it so I used a little extra sliced (thick) bacon. I am so disappointed. I dried each piece of meat individually and browned them to perfection. Anybody have a similar experience? Any suggestions? I wanted it to be amazing!

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  1. I never make any stew with "stew meat." I always buy a roast and cut the cubes myself. That way I can be sure the meat is all coming from the same cut. When you buy stew meat in the grocery store, they often mix up chunks of various cuts that are left over on the chopping block to make up the package. Not all cuts of meat cook the same.

    Did you serve the stew the same day? It's always better the second day.

    1 Reply
    1. If it's too tough you may have cooked it at too high a temperature. Do you know if your oven is properly calibrated? An oven thermometer may be your answer.

      5 Replies
      1. re: KTinNYC

        No, the temp is perfect. The oven is only about 4 or 5 months old anyway but, actually, about 3 weeks ago I had to have it serviced for a burner problem and the serviceman checked the oven temp for me - just to be sure (I always worry about that).
        I'm wondering if the wine was too light - - maybe it needed to be more robust.

        1. re: lisaud

          I wouldn't take serviceman's word I'd buy an oven thermometer and check. The type of wine shouldn't make any difference in the tenderness of the meat. The cut of meat and the temperature and method it's cooked in will have an affect on the tenderness.

          1. re: KTinNYC

            I'm sorry...not being very clear. I was more concerned about the flavor - or lack thereof - than the relative toughness of the meat which is why I questioned the kind of wine I used. It was actually more chewy than tough...in fact it was falling apart. I'm sure the oven temperature is fine since I bake in it all the time with good results. Also, it was barely simmering at 325.
            I agree with you about the cut of the meat and I think I will take ChefJune's advice and buy a whole piece of beef and cut it myself.

            1. re: lisaud

              Did you salt it enough? Blandness in a stew or soup often results from undersalting. I can spend 10 minutes or more tweaking the salt level.

              I don't think there was a problem with the cut of meat, though you might need longer cooking. Chuck is fine (though I like shank even better). Precut stew meat is often too lean - from rump.

              As with most stews and braised dishes, storing it overnight can improve flavor.

              1. re: lisaud

                I think that while this may not be the case in your situation, the temperature can have a substantial effect on the flavor thusly: if one is cooking meat that has some fat and connective tissue, braising at the low temperature should cause the sauce and beef to meld, the gelatin and fat to gently break down into the sauce, and the meat not to be too dry and tough. I say this from sad experience- cooking a less than ideal beef stew meat at too high a temperature can result in a less flavorful and less "bodied" sauce. Not that this is the issue you are trying to remedy.

        2. I made it and was not overly impressed. I cooked it at a low temperature (< 212) in cast iron for a small eternity with a thermometer alert. I will not bother with the individual browning of the pieces next time. I used pork back for the lardons. I also didn't cut it into 3" cubes, but made them thinner against the grain. It was a cheap cut of meat but ended up tender. Not tender in terms of a good steak, but tender in that the fibres would fall apart as you ate it. It was also modified as when I neared completion it was missing certain floral / herbal notes I wanted. So I chucked in some fresh herbs and added a large splash of Angostura bitters.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Paulustrious

            I wanted to be impressed! I'm going to try again with different meat, different wine, and the right kind of bacon (hopefully I can find it). Also, I may not have used enough herbs in the mushrooms which was whole other recipe so I'll change that too. I'll report back!

          2. Remember, it is a classic dish. I am not sure how much it was Julia's, but rather just a classic French dish. Do not shoot the messenger.

            And based on your personal account, if the cook is unfamiliar with a proper method and list of ingredients, the cook might not wish to lambaste a classic dish. Unless, of course, you are basting lamb.

            5 Replies
            1. re: DallasDude

              Dallasdude, I'm not shooting - or lambasting - anyone but myself. I'm taking full responsibility for its relative failure (I mean it was very edible and even enjoyable, just not great) and I'm trying to figure out what I did wrong. I'm sure it has endured and continues to be lauded and recreated because it is a great recipe.

              1. re: lisaud

                Ahh, i figured that was the case. tried to be more tongiue-in-cheek than anything. Only suggestion from this camp would be better ingredients. the wine is important, and I know how it feels to chunk good wine into a dish, thinking it a waste. But remember, as the dish reduces, so does the wine and its flavor. Bad wine reduces to an even worse sauce. Mediocre wine begets a mediocre sauce. And by all means use a proper beef. To save expense, I often check out Asian or other ethnic markets where meat prices can be half of what the average man pays. example, I bought a 6 pound tenderloin at an Asian market last week for 32 bucks. It was far from prime, but made an excellent meal (Korean marinade and smoked).

                Best of luck.

                1. re: DallasDude

                  Interesting advice - I never thought about an Asian market for meat. But they abound in northern NJ so I will check it out. What cut do you recommend for beef stew? By the way...you humor wasn't completely lost on me but this is serious stuff!!

                  1. re: lisaud

                    Series of diconnected points...

                    I buy all my slow cook meats there, especially stuff to be brined / smoked / braised etc. Pork is ridiculously cheap - pity the poor farmers.

                    Sirloin tip was available at my local Asian market at $2-99 for the whole thing.

                    I use shallots rather than pearl onions.

                    The wikipedia article is interesting... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beef_bou...

                    The Larousse method goes via an Espagnole demi glace and reduces the stock prior to braising. I think this sauce has as much impact on the flavour as the wine.

                    IMO Julia Child's method does not make the most of the herbal flavours.

                    I've only made it by JC's recipe twice. That is unlikely to change. Two strikes and you're out - even if it's my fault and I changed what she said.

                    1. re: Paulustrious

                      thanks for the wikipedia link. interesting article. And shallots instead of onions. that's interesting too. I bet it gives it a nice flavor.

            2. While I haven't made Julia's exact recipe for Beef Bourguignon, my go to beef bourguignon is very similar. I definitely would say cut up your own chuck rather than the "stew meat" in the grocery store; I've done both and definitely thought cutting my own was better. Also the wine - a decent burgundy is always a good bet I'd say; otherwise (blasphemy!) a decent pinot noir. Doesn't have to be expensive or mind-blowing, but shouldn't be merely drinkable - should be something you would actually enjoy drinking. Subbing in bacon shouldn't have mattered much (I do the same) but do take as much time as need to reduce the liquid portion at the end to your desired consistency.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cookie44

                I think you're right about the "stew meat." It had no fat at all and I'm sure that was at least one reason why the meat was chewy even as it fell apart. I will cut my own next time. I also agree about the wine. I used chianti because that was her first rec. in the recipe from
                Mastering the Art... (evidently there are other variations) but it was against my better judgement.

                1. re: lisaud

                  With lean stew meat I take the extra effort to cut the pieces across the grain, to shorten those tough fibers.

              2. Just a few notes:
                I wouldn't use Chianti in this recipe. I know she lists it as a decent second choice after Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, and Bordeaux, but I think it's a poor substitute. Her recipes often make understandable accomodations to the American market, as they are intended for the American home cook. I've always understood her inclusion of Chianti to be a reflection of the American wine market, which has changed a lot since the Sixties. It's still not necessarily easy to find less expensive bottles of the preferred French wines, but even an inexpensive, young, American pinot noir, will, for purposes of cooking, come a lot closer to the flavor of the classic dish.
                I'm not assuming that you did or didn't, but most people seem to skip the step of boiling the bacon. This is an absolutely essential step when using American bacon. Also, while thick cut bacon is an acceptable substitute, it's just not going to work as well in the recipe as do lardons.
                Finally, Julia Chid was adapting traditional French home cooking for the American home cook. Her dishes aim more towards deeply satisfying than amazing; they are designed to provide fantastic everyday meals, not make it once and it knocks your socks off dishes. Put simply, beef Bourguignon is French soul food.

                7 Replies
                1. re: danieljdwyer

                  Her Veal Prince Orloff and Lobster Thermidor recipes WILL knock your socks off (and send your cholesterol soaring). these are two classic French dishes that have fallen out of favor in recent years. Julia's recipes are worth a visit, at least once in a lifetime.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    I wasn't knocking Julia Child's recipes at all. I think it's the highest compliment to say they are comfort food at its finest.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      I would like 2010 to be the year that lobster thermidore comes back! It seems feasible, since everyone will be tired of the "recession food" soon and the pendulum should swing back to decadent classics.

                    2. re: danieljdwyer

                      If you want to use a Chianti in a beef stew, you take clues from the Italian Peposo, a rustic beef shank stew. Besides the wine, the main flavors are garlic, and a boatload of black pepper. Made in large quantities in a tile makers kiln, they don't even bother browning the meat before hand. But no one will describe this dish as bland and flavorless!

                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                        I just put it in the oven and now I am awaiting the results! I started late so I did not boil the bacon! I hope it is still edible! About the Chianti, I have belonged toa few international wine clubs over the years and I have yet to find a Chianti that I even like. If anyone knows of one that is good I would sure like to try it. I would never us Chianti in any recipe of mine French, Italian or otherwise but that is only because I haven't found one that I have ever liked. Maybe, someday! And, speaking of wine clubs I used a french wine in my recipe so hopefully it will turn out ok. I am a big believer in the "smell" foods when they are cooking. And, this smells yummy coming from the oven! I will soon find out. I probably won't get to finish it till Thursday night so that will make it even better I hope. Wish me luck

                        1. re: kiimmm

                          This subject would probably be better on the Wine Board, but since you brought it up.........

                          To just say that you've never had a Chianti that you liked is not particularly helpful if you would like to find one you do. Chianti tends to be very earthy, dry, musty, and can sometimes smell 'barnyardy' ( as in even a hint of manure in the aroma). Chianti lovers find those qualities positive, but you don't., and that's fine. To be truthful, I am frequently put off by the aroma of Chianti, but like it when I get past that element.

                          You're probably fine with any full-bodied red of reasonable quality, but the truth is that by the time the Chianti had cooked down you would be hard-pressed to find much of what I detailed above. Just my $.02 really, but I'm fairly confident about that.

                          That said.............. you should (as you did) use a wine you like. If nothing else, it will keep you from blaming any other issues on the wine you used. I used a Chianti when I tried the recipe and the aroma from the oven was incredible too.


                      2. I love this recipe from Ina Garten.


                        I also think you should use an oven thermometer just so you know for sure that your oven callibration is correct and stays that way.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mcf

                          I just made that for a Christmas party. It was ok. Everyone else loved it, though. I think my expectations were different / too high. The frozen onions were a great idea.

                          As a post says below me, it is just beef stew. I had had another beef bourguignon that was more of a braise (with a very reduced, sticky sauce), and it blew me away. That was at one of the best restaurants in town.

                        2. You may be a victim of over-heightened expectations. Never mind the French name, the elaborate instructions, or the worshipful treatment in recent cinematography. We're talking about beef stew here. Very good beef stew, but still...

                          If you can get outstandingly flavorful beef, and if you accompany it with just the right proportions of other ingredients, and if you prepare it perfectly, you're going to have a very tasty dish. But don't expect to be amazed. It's beef stew.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            If you can get outstandingly flavorful beef, and if you accompany it with just the right proportions of other ingredients, and if you prepare it perfectly, you're going to have a very tasty dish."

                            I'd agree with that. I made it a few months ago, for ther first time, and it was VERY, VERY good but really............. just beef stew. If you pay attention to the wine and herbs and cook it just right, it is going to be a great beef stew. I've made other recipes that were as good, but after seeing Julie & Julia, I had to try this one. I'm glad I did, but I'm not sure I'd go to that much trouble every time.

                            1. re: Midlife

                              I agree. It's delicious.... But it is beef stew. If you are expecting a religious experience after eating it, you will be disapointed.

                              1. re: joaniesl

                                Beef in a rich gravy and appropriate vegetables, served with mashed potatoes, is one of my definitions of a religious experience. Just paid $21 for a smallish but adequate plate of it, and it put me into a deeply contemplative state for about twenty minutes. The meat was very slightly chewy, just enough to give my body something to do while my soul swam on seas of goodness...

                                Julia's Bourguignon was the first dish my mother studied carefully, then made exactly as directed, and she would not think of doing it any other way. A friend served some to her one night, and it was pretty grim, though the friend seemed happy enough. Mom asked her where she got the recipe, and the friend said, "Oh, from you! I just skipped a lot of the folderol, and I really don't see that it makes any difference!" Mom just nodded...

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  We just got a new Le Creuset round oven on sale and I was itching to try it out so I picked up some lamb pieces at Albertson's (was looking for a large piece to cut myself but they didn't have any real selection) along with some root veggies. Wondered what would happen if I just winged it.

                                  Looked up Julia's lamb stew recipe and decided to sortof "Rube Goldberg" it with the BB recipe. Used pork sausage links instead of bacon for the fat, did the floured browning, threw in some onions, garlic, fresh rosemary, S&P, canned whole tomatoes, and a combo of beef Better than Bouillon and an Aussie Shiraz/Cab blend. After an hour I added potatoes, carrots, turnips, mushrooms, seasoned again, then frozen peas at the end of the second hour.
                                  Oh............. and liberal amounts of butter along the way.

                                  Except for the lamb pieces being too small (I would have cut them larger had I been able) and a bit over-cooked because of that, I think................... this stew was delicious too. Not earth-shattering, but delicious. And about half the work of the real BB recipe.

                                  Oh, and I learned something when there was too much liquid near the end. I Googled and found something new for me........ some potatoes, carrots and turnips from the stew swooshed with an immersion blender and poured back in, really thickened things up.

                                  Leftovers tonight!!!!!

                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    The thing with puréed veges I learned ages ago from a new-style cook who wanted to avoid starch-thickened gravy. I was just not able to do it tidily until I finally got the immersion blender. Last TG Day's turkey was spatchcocked and roasted on a bed of veges, and that's how the gravy was made...

                                    There's a wonderful and very simple Cypriot lamb-and-potato stew in Tessa Kiros's book "Falling Cloudberries". I can't remember if I posted it or not... lamb shoulder is perfect for it (or any other lamb stew!).

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      The one caveat about the pureed vegetables is that you can change a beautiful brown sauce to a beautiful orangey-brown sauce very quickly because of the carrots.

                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                        Which is why I think we'll be going back to good old giblet gravy this year! Nobody complained, but one of the nieces asked if this were some kind of pumpkin thing. And it was sweeter than I like, too.

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Yes, it is sweeter as well. I've seen this tip mentioned several times but no one ever brings up the side effects.

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Of course, hitting the giblets with an immersion blender can accomplish much the same thing...

                                        2. re: Will Owen

                                          Alright, I give up. I think I finally have to buy this book. Sheesh. That lamb and potato stew sounds so good.

                              2. Interesting - I'm planning on making Ina Garten's bb recipe as referenced below - it gets amazing reviews on the food network website. Planning on using 1/2 Cote du Rhone and 1/2 Pinot Noir! Anyone have recommendation on the best starchy side dish?

                                1. Well, your first problem is that there is more than one Julia Child boeuf Burguignon recipe floating around out there, at least one of which is great, the others not so great. I strongly prefer the recipe from her original TV show, ""The French Chef." Her recipe in the cookbook of the same name runs nearly three pages with good advice on all of the ingredients. I've seen some of her later recipes that made me wonder about senility, bless her heart! One in particular when she did Burguignon on a morning talk show, added carrots(!) and omitted tomato paste. NOT good Burguignon.

                                  I don't think I would use a chianti. I always use just what the title states: Burgundy! And I always have at least two bottles of whatever specific bottling of Burgundy I will be using in the recipe; one for the pot and at least one (depending on number of guests) for drinking.

                                  Boeuf Burguignon is always best when made at least a day ahead of time so the flavors have time to marry over night. It also makes "party day" a LOT easier! For lardons, I most often use salt pork, cut it into the lardons, then blanch them two or three times before rendering and setting aside for later addition to the recipe. The blanching does not remove much (if any) fat, but does greatly reduce the saltiness, which is a real plus. I also use a few more pearl onions than the recipe calls for, and in addition to the quartered mushrooms, I toss in a few fluted mushroom caps, then make sure they are on top when I serve.

                                  Give it another shot, and try the Burgundy wine. I think you'll find it makes a difference. Good luck and I hope the next time exceeds all of your hopes! Bon appetite! '-)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    It was definitely better the next day. And I will definitely use a richer wine the next time I make it.

                                  2. Not to take things too off topic, but has anyone ever tried to make Julia's Beef Bourguignon without bacon (or any other pork product for that matter). My husband does not like to have pork in the house (homage to Jewish kosher laws), but I know that the bacon adds fat and salt to any dish, so I am hopeful that others have found a fair substitute or that the recipe does not need it.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                      I make beef stew without bacon all the time. It's still delicious. Just brown the meat in oil. Jews have been making brisket for a long time without pork fat and I wouldn't turn my nose up at a good brisket. This is essentially the same thing with a different cut of meat.

                                      1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                        Here's one alternative:

                                        And here are a couple more:

                                        I've never tried any of them, but I must say I find the idea of duck bacon in beef Burguignon intriguing! I could end up swearing off salt pork forever!

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          My favorite butcher has excellent beef bacon. It never gets crispy if you want, say a BLT -- but it works perfectly in a dish such as this.

                                          I haven't tried Julia's, but that's because this isn't a dish I particularly like. However, I'm going to be served Ina Garten's Friday evening. Even if I don't enjoy it, it'll be family, and it'll be great.

                                        2. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                          Update: So I made the Beef Bourguignon without the bacon and substituted rendered duck fat for bacon fat for browning the veggies and meat. To be honest, it is 3 hours of active cooking for beef stew. Yes it is a nice beef stew, but not worth 3 hrs of fuss. It inspired me to spend the time browning everything before I stick it in the slow cooker from now on and to use a better wine (burgundy really is a great stew wine), but other than that, it was pretty underwhelming.

                                          1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                            I don't understand what you mean by, " it is 3 hours of active cooking for beef stew." After the initial effort aren't you just letting the stew simmer on it's own?

                                            The receipe isn't your thing. No big deal. Just move on to others.

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              This is not your typical "set it and forget it" stew recipe. First you have to cut your own stew meat and pat it dry and brown all of the meat, then chop and brown some carrot and onions, then toss the meat in flour and blast it with heat to make a crust, then put that all in the oven to simmer. While that braises, peel and brown a bunch of little onions and set those to braise independently, then quarter and brown a bunch of mushrooms in smallish batches.Then drain the meat and veggies and simmer down the sauce and then recombine all the separate parts to simmer together for a few moments, then serve.

                                              For all of the independent steps, it didn't taste that much better than throwing a bunch of stuff in a crock pot and heading off to work. And for the record, pealing little onions is a pain!

                                              1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                                "And for the record, pealing little onions is a pain!"

                                                Agree; that's why Ina Garten says to use the frozen ones. I'd rather drill hot screws through my eyeballs than peel those little things. It sounds as if you might be just as happy with a very high heat oven sear of the meet and veggies, followed by a toss into the slow cooker, no?

                                                1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                                  There aren't many good stew recipes that don't ask you to dry and brown meat and vegetables. The instructions are elaborate but IMO I don't think the steps are very different from most other stew recipes.

                                                  And yes, peeling baby onions is a PITA. You can buy the frozen variety or you can throw them in boiling water and shock in an ice bath. Cut off the root ends and pop off the skin.

                                          2. I have not made this yet, but my dad did recently and had a few over for dinner that raved and raved. He used Clotilde's recipe from Zucchini and Chocolate:

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: lexpatti

                                              Your link went to the home page. Is this the recipe you're refering to?


                                            2. If this was your first time making a braised beef dish with a rich sauce like this, I would head straight to www.cooksillustrated.com and pay $25 to subscribe. There are videos and extremely careful recipe stories that can help you get the hang of things like this.

                                              More than any other resource, CI has helped me refine techniques and tell me the 'why' behind the methods. It also has a bomb-proof Beef Bourguignon as well.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                                                I am actually an experienced cook and have successfully made many braised beef dishes over the years which is why I was so frustrated about this one. I've now come to the conclusion that it was the ingredients (type of meat, type of wine, bacon etc) that compromised the quality of the dish.
                                                I am a subscriber to cooksillustrated and have been for the past few years. I can't live without it!

                                              2. It's all about the beef cut. I don't think the wine choice makes a huge difference here. Choose meat with a high fat and connective tissue to meat ratio. I made the dish with large cubes of boneless beef short rib and it came out amazing.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: DoctorDaveNY

                                                  Again my shout out to any Asian market, in this case use a Korean market that makes haste of the short rib, and has them in delightfully moist cubes, packaged for mere pittance.

                                                  1. re: DoctorDaveNY

                                                    Excuse me, but based on decades and decades of cooking experience, the wine is a prime determining factor in the flavor outcome of this dish. But as you say, the beef is also of major importance. But do NOT underestimate the importance of the wine. Chianti is not a first choice for this dish.

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      Why exactly is Chianti wrong? Is it wrong for any beef stew, or just one with the Burgandy flavor profile? Does it, or now, work with other ingredients in the dish?

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Yes, if it was an acceptable bottle of Chianti, I'm sure my palate would not discern the difference.

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          The name of the dish is boeuf Burguignon. In English, beef in the style of Burgundy. I doubt there's a Frenchman in the entire province of Bourgogne who has ever used Italian wine to make this dish. Chianti can be very nice in a beef braise with Italian style ingredients. Different wines give different flavor profiles to a finished dish. It's fun experimenting, and the bonuses are you learn something and also get something good (hopefully!) to eat.

                                                    2. Most likely your problem was the beef itself. It is not just the fact that you used generic "stew meat." In the past 30 years or so, the "succulence," for lack of a better term, has been bred out of beef in the name of "leanness." Typical cuts used for stew are nowadays so lean that they literally dry out swimming in liquid.

                                                      There are two things you can do. One, if possible, buy Prime grade meat. The extra intramuscular fat adds flavor and maintains the moisture during a long braise (though it would be a good idea to refrigerate overnight after braising, so the fat solidifies at the top and you can peel it off). Two, select a cut with a ton of collagen. I prefer short ribs. This will add body to the stew and reduce the chances of the meat drying out.

                                                      1. This may not have been a factor at all but these things can be overcooked. So "falling apart" isn't necessarily a good thing. I've learned this the hard way :(

                                                        1. I made this recently and it was pretty good but I didn't follow the recipe exactly. The group I was making it for aren't big meat eaters so I only used about a pound of beef(for four people) and increased the vegetables. I also sauteed the mushrooms in butter(I didn't have the recipe she says to use) and didn't use the white onions(didn't have them). Everything else was the same, and I used homemade stock which usually ends up being better in my experience. Anyway I agree with whoever said it's a classic french recipe, just tweak it a bit and make it your own!

                                                          1. I cooked this today, and I have to say I was delighted with the results. I've made Ina Garten's bourguignon, and I've made Tony Bourdain's, and I didn't enjoy either of them terribly much. The meat always ended up the color of the wine, and the wine flavor in the sauce was just too overwhelming for me...I wanted it to be subtler, I guess. So this was my last-ditch attempt, figuring that if I didn't like this, well shoot, I guess I just didn't like braised beef & wine. But the sauce became that beautiful rich mahogany brown, and the meat wasn't purple and it comforted my soul right down to the tips of my toes.

                                                            The only thing I can put down to the success of this attempt was that I did what the recipe said. I followed her advice on the meat and got a prime chuck roast, I used a fairly inexpensive but mellow tasting 2004 Cote Du Rhone, I used slab bacon cut into lardons, I used the bacon rind, I sauteed the mushrooms, I braised the pearl onions...I adjusted my oven temp to slow down the simmer...and it worked.

                                                            Maybe a braised casserole isn't to everyone's taste, and maybe the Julia's reputation gets in the way of the anticipation of this dish, leading us to think it's going to be more than a braised casserole. But for me I think the fact that it turned out to be 'just' a braised casserole was the most satisfying thing about it...it was no more than the sum of its parts and the simplicity of that flavor is very comforting.

                                                            Hope I don't sound full of myself. Just wanted to share a success in case anyone's having second thoughts about this dish.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                              1. re: vegemitegirl

                                                                its been a few days since I checked on this thread. wow! a lot of interesting tips and opinions. thanks for yours. despite all those who say "its just beef stew" and not to expect a religious experience...well, why the heck not? what kind of food WILL produce a "religious experience" if not something that is perfectly executed and deeply comforting? it does not have to be unusual or expensive. it just has to be really, really good.

                                                              2. I made this once and thought it was fabulous. I used the recipe in "The Way to Cook" (which sounds like a different recipe from the one you used, as it didn't call for bacon or lardons). I cut up a small chuck roast and used an inexpensive burgandy (beccause I wanted Beef Bourguignon rather than beef stew in red wine). It was wonderfully flavored and very full-bodied. Just delicious.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: housewolf

                                                                  I made this twice in the past month. Followed Julia's recipe... except for the bacon (did not use). Used beef stew and chianti. The last time I served it in a bread bowl. Everyone loved it!

                                                                2. wow--Hollywood gets points for making this post so well-responded to!

                                                                  I've never made the recipe from "Mastering...", but HAVE made Julia's BB from her recipe in the book from the TV series "The French Chef". It isn't as involved a recipe, but the techniques are basically the same. It goes together fairly quickly and cooks slowly a couple of hours. It simmers slowly, never boils.

                                                                  It is delicious, and as Caroline points out, even better the next day. Beef, onions, mushrooms, tomato paste, carrots, potatoes, garlic. Oh, and wine.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: toodie jane

                                                                    Just to be on the clear side, the recipe in The French Chef doesn't use carrots, though she does call for them in her boeuf a la mode recipe. The potatoes are a side dish suggestion in both recipes, but not cooked in the pot with the beef.

                                                                    Of all the many "authentic" Julia Child recipes for beef Borguignon floating around, I think the one in her "The French Chef" cookbook is by far the best. There are two BB recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and frankly, I don't like either of them. But I had been making BB for a while before MAoFC was published, so I undoubtedly came in with preconceived notions.

                                                                    Of the two recipes in Mastering, one uses tenderloin and does not simmer the meat a long time in the sauce, but instead simmers the sauce a long time and then pours it over the browned cubes of tenderloin. Why bother? First off, the tenderlin is better presented as either filets mignon or tournedos, and second, the beef does not take on the full flavor that a tougher cut long simmered in the wine achieves.

                                                                    The other "Mastering" recipe suffers heavily, in my opinion, from collaboration. They recommend several wines for the dish, not all of which are Burgundies. Much to my horror, one of the non-Burgundy wines suggested IS a Chianti! Using Chianti would, by definition, make it a "bovino di Tuscana." The wine used truly does define the final flavor of the dish, and a true Burgundy lends a rich flavor I have not found with any other red wine. The other thing I don't like about the collaborator's version (and I do use "collaborators" as a pejorative) is that they use carrots in the recipe. Again, this changes the flavor profile of a true BB. It ends up as a nice beef stew, but what it doesn't do is end up with the classic flavor of a true BB.

                                                                    I think Julia Child was an exceptional cook, well trained at le Cordon Bleu, long before she met the other two ladies she worked with in producing MAoFC. I think the original "The French Chef" TV show allowed her to let the world meet the real Julia Child instead of "the collaborator." '-)

                                                                  2. I have not read the posts yet so apologies if I repeat. I just made this... I spent 5 days making it, as she suggests (a little each day) and it was, according to those who were here, incredible. I wanted to do it right so I started off making a dark roasted beef bone stock. The did each step as she suggests, and let the dish sit in the fridge two days to let the flavors meld. The last day I did the onions and mushrooms (wow, those were incredible) and folded them into the warmed dish, which I served with buttered wide flat noodles. I did use very good wine, and the beef stock was dark and homemade, so perhaps that helped. And I cooked the mushrooms and onions down with a lot of butter. In general, a lot of butter went into the dish. I also did the thickening she suggests. And kept adding some butter as well.

                                                                    Also, I did use pancetta, which may have added flavor, and for meat I used short rib meat. I cut the meat off the bones, using the bones in the roasted beef stock. I will do it again, it really was terrific.

                                                                    I have found with many stew dishes that you just keep cooking them in the oven until the meat suddenly turns. My short rib meat even took a little bit longer than usual this time (I also use short rib meat, on the bone, for a regular beef stew). Just keep cooking it, checking it every 15 minutes or so. And the stew sitting a day or two also really makes a difference.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Tom P

                                                                      TomP, I think you hit the nail on the head...I have a friend who swears by this recipe, and will take the days it requires to make it the way Julia says to. I will not--I'll use a pressure cooker to make a delicious stew--but I think some of the other posters here do not take the several days/following all the steps that Julia's recipe in "Mastering...French Cooking"

                                                                      1. re: mommasue

                                                                        I do think doing it over a few days makes it taste better. And it made it relatively easy... a little bit each day. Oh, and per the comments above, I used frozen pearl onions and they were wonderful. There was NO WAY I was going to peel a bunch of those little buggers!

                                                                    2. I know many have stated that this tastes better the next day. However, my question is does this freeze and reheat well?

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: cityhopper

                                                                        I have not found that to be a problem.

                                                                        1. I'm sorry you had such a poor outcome. I just made this last week and it was truly awesome. I did use a very good wine, the bacon recommended and the meat......well, when I told the butcher what I was making he took the store-wrapped stew meat out of my hands and put in back on the shelf. He then pointed me to the roasts and suggested that I use one of those and allow him to cut it into "proper" stew meat chunks (about 1.5-2" sq). I served it with creamy garlic-mashed potatoes. It was worth going thru all the hoops to make this dish and my husband says it's what he'll request whenever we have guests.

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: dinkyd

                                                                            i have made Julia's beef bourgionion 3 times in the past month, and was amazed at how delicious it was.

                                                                            I used a cote d rhone, and I DID NOT use pre cut stew beef. I had the butcher chop up a chuck roast for me. You can tell by looking at stew beef that is is too lean to have much flavor. I also used a Lecreuset 5 qt braisedr pan.

                                                                            1. re: arupiper

                                                                              I came looking for help last evening after I spent all day doing Julia's BB. My rendition was really barely edible. I knew it had to be something that I did wrong and was so happy to find this discussion. I took much of the excellent advice above, and did it again today. I am so thrilled with the succulent, rich, beefy, first taste, of that which just now is cooling on my stove top, thanks to you all.

                                                                              Here are my mistakes in the first batch which many of you pointed out above--I used precut prepackaged stew meat, very tasteless. Another mistake, wine that I used was a red blend, boxed wine, which included cab, and merlot. The wine taste in the first batch was like a slap in the face even after hours of oven braising. Also left out bacon all together as was not sure what to use.

                                                                              Todays version, which I would call succulent comfort food at its best, thanks to what I learned here above. Meat was a "Ranchers Reserve" chuck roast, from my local Vons/Safeway store. Not sure what grade it would be, but there was definately fat, some of which I left in my chunks when cutting up for the BB. The meat flavor in todays dish is fabulous, rich beefy in a wonderful, old fashioned way, and the texture is perfectly tender and melts in the mouth. The wine I used this time was a French Pinot Noir from Burgundy. We did a taste comparison between yesterdays and todays wine used for the BB and there was a huge difference. The French Pinot Noir was (well, you will see I am no wine expert here) a much lighter tasting wine, not sure how else to say it. It enhanced the beef but did not overwhelm it. Wine was about $14 at Vons again. Another change was that I used salt pork as mentioned above, boiled and dried as in recipe. I did not have quite the 3 pounds of meat as recipe in Mastering calls for, so adjusted amounts of wine and broth to compensate, three hours, at 325 in enameled dutch oven, used a bit more flour as wanted the sauce a tiny bit thicker.

                                                                              Well, there is my experience. If anyone new to this type of cooking as I am, wonders how much difference certain ingredient substitutions might make, in this case, they made a huge difference. I will definately make this again and often.

                                                                              Thanks again Chow-people!

                                                                              1. re: deekaa

                                                                                Aw, shucks deeka....ain't Chowhound grand!!!


                                                                                1. re: deekaa

                                                                                  So glad this worked for you the second time. Hope you post again with other queries and/or reports.

                                                                                  1. re: deekaa

                                                                                    I've had so many great Chowhounds walk me through so many things. I live in NoCal and and East Coaster couldn't stay awake long enough to hear how something turned out so was back on the computer first thing in the morning checking on me. I've described it as like having a whole bunch of wonderful cooks living right next door. You're going to have so much fun here.

                                                                              2. Just finished Julia's BB, made from "Mastering". I have had many BBs, some cooked by profesional chefs and some by home cooks (including myself) and I can say that this is hands down the best recipe I have ever consumed. I think that alot of the conseternation about the recipe stems from the ingredients, the wine and the beef. i used a chuck roast and a $30 bottle of blended wine. I have a very good friend who is a professional chef and he always stresses that a dish is as only good as to what you put in it. So if you use cheap wine or the wrong cut of beef, the recipe will turn out to be substandard. I used a blended wine that had a big bold nose and made a few additions that enhanced the final product. I think that using common sense and good cooking technigue will transform any recipe ( this one included) to a dish that one is not likey to forget.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: billfish40

                                                                                  I'm glad your dish turned out well. I just want to add that there's plenty of wine that's very good at a *much* lower price point. Quality, not price matters here.