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Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon?

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A late bloomer, I just saw the movie "Julie & Julia" on the telly. Although I've made Beef Bourguignon before, I've always found it too "winey", but that could be because I used the wrong/cheap wine or didn't cook it well or long enough. It's been okay, but nothing to write home about.

Inspired by the movie to give it another go -- in the hope of making something that will knock the socks off my hubby -- I did an internet search for Julia's recipe and was amazed to see so many recipes adapted from her original. This may be a silly question, but as the original goddess of French cooking, isn't Julia's version perfect as-is? Also, as it is called Beef Bourguignon, why does the receipe call for Beujolias, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeau- Saint-Émilion, Chianti **OR**Burgundy?

I have also seen comments from on-line posters who say they found the original recipe bland, and recommend using Pinot Noir and substituting dark chicken stock in lieu of brown beef stock.

Speaking of brown beef stock, short of making it from scratch (marrow bones are hard to come by), is fresh beef stock from the grocery store okay and/or would a bit of More Than Gourmet demi-glace give a better finish?

In case it matters, I'll be using a combination of aged beef shin and beef cheeks for the meat.

Any thoughts, hints and tips will be most welcome!

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  1. Use frozen onions.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Jay F

      Jay, why frozen onions? Surely you mean the frozen kind, which are chopped, for the braising part, and not the small white ones that go in later, yes?

      1. re: Journey

        I assume he means frozen pearl onions, rather than peeling them all.

        1. re: sweetpotater

          ding ding ding.

          The first time I made Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon, I think I spent half my time peeling the pearl onions. Then I had it somewhere else, and the guy who made it said, "Yeah, I used frozen onions. You think I was going to peel all those onions for real?"

          Ultimately, I gave up on Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon, and have for decades now made Giuliano Bugalli's Stracotto when I want beef stew.

          1. re: Jay F

            A quick pass of the onions through boiling water makes the peels slip off easily. I believe that is the method Mrs. Child suggested.

            1. re: sr44

              Whatever she suggested, they did not seem to "slip off easily" 28 years ago. I haven't made it since. Maybe it wouldn't seem so onerous to me today. Or maybe they're making slippier onions nowadays.

              1. re: Jay F

                I just blanched and slip peeled pearl onions NYE (for mushroom not beef bourguignon). I do find it pretty easy, tho I wouldn't want to do it for more than a few cups of onions.

    2. A Burgundy wine is a wine from the Burgundy region of France. There are many wines with many names that are Burgundies, and many wines using the same grapes that are not Burgundies since they are grown elsewhere. The typical example is Pinot Noir, the most common choice of a Burgundy.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cantkick

        Silly me, Cantkick! Guess I'll have to drink more wine-LOL!

      2. I think some people do adaptations to shorten it. I've made the full version a few times and love it. The wine you use does make a difference, as well as stock. I am not sure when you are planning to make it but it is well worth making your own stock. Stock is very easy to make and tastes so much better than any thing you can get in the store. If you roast the bones/meat before you make the stock, it is even better/richer but that depends on how much time you have.

        In one recipe, Julia suggests doing it over a few days... make the stock one day, brown the meat one day, etc so you don't have to do it all in one day (but that can be fun as well). I tend to do it over a few days and it is certainly best to finish the dish one day before you serve it so it has a chance to sit over night, which adds a lot of flavor

        Also, be sure to do the onions and mushrooms just as she describes. I love these so much I often make them as a side dish just on their own. If you are near a Trader Joe's, they are lately selling fresh peeled pearl onions and they are wonderful! If you cannot find those, I would use, as suggested, frozen pearl mushrooms so you do not have to go to the pain of peeling them. I did that once ... never again :)

        Demi glace certainly would make it even richer. I like to really let the liquid cook down to make it a little thicker and add flavor. If you want a good, fast recipe for stock, let me know.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Tom P

          Hi Tom and all. We don't have Trader Joe's in the UK, but I actually don't mind peeling little onions. For other recipes, I usually blanch them in chicken stock, peel, then saute in a little butter to brown them, so might do that with this dish as well.

          I like the idea of making my own stock and would appreciate your recipe. If you use marrow bones, any recommendations for substitutes would be nice as it's really difficult to get them where I am; oxtail is a LITTLE easier to find, and veal bones are near to impossible.

          1. re: Journey

            I have three variations on stock.

            1) EASY/FAST: The easiest way is to throw all your ingredients (see below) in a pot filled with water, bring to a boil, then simmer a couple of hours, occasionally skimming the foam off the top. After two hours, strain the stock, cool, then store in the fridge/freezer. This creates a wonderful, clear stock perfect for risottos or as the base for soups.

            2) OVERNIGHT: A trick I learned from The Splendid Table is to start the stock before you go to bed, put on your lowest level on the burner and let gently simmer all night. This makes an incredibly rich stock and is well worth the time.

            3) DARK: Roast your meaty bones before starting the stock. Put your chicken/beef/etc bones on a roasting tray and roast an hour or two at 350. This makes a dark, very rich stock perfect for stews and braises. You can throw some onions and carrots into the roasting pan if you like.

            All three turn out wonderful stocks. For vegetables I always use lots of carrots and celery cut up into large chunks, making sure to use a lot of celery leaves. I use 3 or 4 onions cut in half (keep the skin on!), a couple of tomatoes in large chunks, a handful of peppercorns, a few cloves, flat leaf parsley, 5 or 6 cloves of garlic smashed (leave the skin on as well) and, occasionally, a lemon. I've come to love the vegetable stock this mix makes so much that veggie stock tends to be the stock I make the most often. Wow, is it good. I've thrown in a little fennel and/or some greens (chard/kale) if I have them in the fridge at the time.

            If making meat stock, I put in the meat bones in with the vegetables if I am short on time. If you have time, you can bring the meat bones to a boil first, then drain, which gets rid of a lot of detritus you end up skimming off the top. I make stock so often I have a pot I use mostly for stock. It is a tall pot, with a pasta drain insert, which makes it very easy. You will the pot with water, all the bones and vegetables go into the insert and when the stock is done, I just pull the insert out and let sit over the pot at an angle to drain. Below is a link to a pot similar to the one I use:

            http://www.pasta-recipes-made-easy.co...

            NOTE: If you have trouble finding marrow bones, just by a piece of meat that has a large bone on it, even a cheaper T-Bone steak. Roast that in the oven per step 3, then make your stock. It will work just as well. Oxtail certainly would work, or short ribs (looks for ribs with a lot of bone, less meat.)

            1. re: Tom P

              Many thanks for your recipes and tips, Tom. Ya know, I have that huge 12-qt. pasta All-Clad pot and insert given as a birthday present years ago. It's so big it's sat in the garage because I rarely have occasion to use it, so your tip to use it for stock will breathe new life into it.

              Finding beef bones of any sort is proving to be more difficult than anticipated. Our local Tesco doesn't sell sirloin on the bone and all three butchers in our area don't stock marrow bones, beef ribs or any type of bones! Fortunately, one of them has kindly agreed to save any off-cut bones he can gather over the course of the week, so hopefully he'll have enough by Saturday. Can't wait to get started!

              1. re: Journey

                Can't wait to hear how it goes for you! That is so strange about the lack of bones!

              2. re: Tom P

                I get stock from my local butcher.

          2. Have never yet attempted it, but have the book. I'd like to attempt it when I have planned the time to do every step with no shortcuts. Here is the original recipe straight from the publisher's website: http://cooking.knopfdoubleday.com/200...

            1. if you have the time, it is well worth making the stock as it really is such an important aspect of the recipe.

              1. Where I live, frozen pearl onions are difficult to come by. An easy way out is to use regular pearl onions, but instead of slaving yourself by peeling them by hand for an hour, a quick plunge in boilling water will loosen the skin and it will be peeling right off by pinching.

                1. I would recommend homemade stock--whether beef, veal or chicken--over anything you can buy in the store. I think that is one ingredient that can make or break this dish. (You also might be seeing so many variations because I assume the original is copyrighted.)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: escondido123

                    A lot of butcher shops sell stock they've made. Saves a step.

                  2. I will say that I have made her recipe to a "T" and it was wonderful. If you've run across reviews that call it bland -- then they haven't made it correctly. The Pinot "substitution" isn't really one, as someone else pointed out above.

                    Also, stock is easy to make in a pressure cooker (I'm OK with this if I'm not going to be eating it alone -- pressure cooker stock tends to be a little duller than regular stock to my taste, which isn't OK for a beef broth soup or consume, but fine for a braised dish).

                    I would, however, call into question your meat. I would use ONE kind of meat. Either that, or cook them separately. I know, I know... One of my love of cooking is braising. And if there is anything I've learn is that the old mantra of "a braise, is a braise, is a braise" isn't really correct (I was once told this by a budding chef in culinary school who insisted that braised chicken thighs would not be tender after 2 hours, that 4-5 is necessary for any braise); different cuts of meat behave very differently. I've done Beef Burgundy the recommended cut (beef rump roast) and it only took about 2.5 hrs of cooking for meltingly tender beef, while chuck took closer to 4 hrs.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mateo21

                      Thanks for the advice on the meat, Mateo. I don't have enough of either the beef shin or ox cheeks and, after checking the packages, one takes 2½-3 hours, the other 2-2½ hours. I'm assuming, rather than cooking separately, I could add the shin first, then the cheeks after ½ hour, yes?

                      If using rump, would that be top rump silverside or a top side rump, or just a plain rump? (As you might guess, I'm not knowledgeable about beef cuts. Compounded with the fact I'm an American in England, I'm still trying to come to grips with English/UK cuts and the different terminology!

                    2. Another good option (though not, strictly speaking, a classic beef bourguignon) is Julia's Zinfandel of Beef in The Way to Cook. After browning, the beef braises in wine for several hours until it's wonderfully tender and flavorful. I recommend finishing in the oven in a good heavy pan like a LeCreuset, rather than on the stovetop. I also find that the sauce is sufficiently thick so that the beurre-manie finishing is unnecessary.

                      I'm starting a pot this afternoon.

                      1. My only suggestion is that you not over think this dish. It's braised meat with wine and veg. If you don't have marrow bones, don't add them. Obviously, there are these "recipes" that are meant to be the ultimate and most authentic upscale version, but it will be delicious if you just use the basic ingredients.

                        1. Fellow chowhounder 'delucacheesemonger posted on the 'wine' board, the FIRST Boeuf Bourguignon he tried was made with 2 bottles of 1935 Grand Cru Bonnes- Mares Burgundy!!!! Now, THATS what I call a real Beef Bourgignon!!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            Funny, she emphasizes on her show "the French Chef" that you should not use expensive wne, as it is not bold enough/is too mellow.

                          2. I made beef bourguignon tonight. It wasn't Julia's recipe, just the recipe I've come up with over the years. One thing I do to cut the intensity of a bottle of wine cooked down is to stir in a spoonful (or two etc ... depends on how much you're making) of raspberry or currant jam at the end.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                              That "wineyness" taste is one of the things I didn't care for the other times I've tried this dish (with a non-JC recipe). Before even tasting it, you could see how the meat and gravy was a deep wine-red, rather than a rich mahogany colour, which I believe a well-made BB should have. The addition of jam sounds quite nice, but wouldn't it add a tart-sweet note to the dish that shouldn't actually be there?

                              1. re: Journey

                                It's not a strong tart-sweet flavor, but I guess it depends on what you like/are looking for. I prefer it that way.

                                1. re: Journey

                                  Journey,

                                  It's a wonderful recipe, just do it, with the richest beef broth you can find. I have made it a zillion times, it's always good.

                                  Sweetfern