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Jan 23, 2013 08:26 AM

Boeuf Bourguignon timing question

Saturday's article in the WSJ prompted me to make Boeuf Bourguignon for the first time. I'm using the recipe from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", making it today for tomorrow's dinner.

Pearl onions and mushrooms are cooked separately, then added to the meat after the sauce has been strained off, skimmed for fat, and simmered a few minutes. After pouring the sauce over the meat and vegetables, the recipe states that the recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

My question relates to the timing of the mushrooms and onions. Since the onions are simmered slowly for 40 to 50 minutes, I am hesitant to add them and the mushrooms to the meat the day before. I fear that if I add the onions and mushrooms today, in the reheating tomorrow, the onions will fall apart and the mushrooms will be overcooked and lose their fresh quality.

So my plan is to prepare the beef through defatting and simmering the sauce, return the meat and sauce to the casserole, and then reheat that tomorrow. While the beef is heating, I will prepare the mushrooms and the onions, then add them into the casserole when done and the beef is hot.

Your advice on this plan - add the freshly cooked onions and mushrooms tomorrow, versus cooking today and refrigerating overnight with the meat and sauce - would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. I'll be curious to hear other's opinions but I would add the onions and mushrooms today and let their flavors marry with the sauce overnight, prior to reheating.

    I don't think you'll have to worry about pearl onions falling apart and the mushrooms should be fine. I'd rather have those flavors infusing into the sauce overnight than worrying about them falling apart.

    I've never tried it the way you are suggesting - just for the record.

    4 Replies
    1. re: thimes

      I'm with you, thimes -- the onions and the mushrooms will give their flavor, and will absorb some of the other flavors. This is a good thing.

      Tante Marie (the fictional French lady who represents the way my friends, colleagues and clients cook here in France) cooks it all together, then refrigerates the whole thing, if she doesn't serve it to her family on the same day.

      1. re: sunshine842

        The beauty of this recipe is the ease of serving it once it is all pulled together and it is better the next day. The onions and mushrooms add flavour and perhaps complexity and I tend to think that the recipe should be followed.

      2. re: thimes

        I totally agree. Put them in today.

        The mushrooms aren't supposed to really have a "fresh quality" about them anyway.

        1. re: thimes

          What thimes said. I've assisted in making this dish for a dinner party that was Julia-themed, and the shrooms and pearl onions don't fall apart and add a depth of flavor you won't get if you do a quick sauté and add them towards the end.

        2. That's what I do. I add the sautéed pearl onions and mushrooms before serving. Mushroom sautéing tip:
          I assume you are using little button mushrooms the same size as the pearl onions for 'visual appeal.
          In a DRY sauté pan add the mushrooms. Do not over crowd. Medium heat. Watch to see if the mushrooms are giving up any moisture. If they are blot it up with paper towel. Do this to all the mushrooms. You want them to be dry dry dry. Then add a bit of clarified butter to the med heat pan. The mushrooms will be little butter sponges and will turn a nice golden brown. If you don't 'dry sauté them first you will have ugly gray mushy mushrooms that resemble snails. LOL
          Clarified butter has a different taste than regular butter with milk solids in it. The milk solids do all sorts of weird flavor things in dishes that sometimes impart a flavor you don't want.
          Making clarified butter is dead easy and lasts in the fridge.

          1. I agree with thimes; add 'em today and let the flavors combine overnight.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kcshigekawa

              There is a continuing debate about when to add ingredients to 'BB'. I have made many many 'BB's' over decades. I've put all the ingredients in together and added some of them later. My conclusion for what's it's worth is I have come to feel that when the onions and mushrooms are added later the flavor of those things can be tasted as 'onion' and 'mushrooms'. I sort of got tired of tasting 'onion' with every bite.
              Now I make 'BB' leaving out the onions/mushrooms. I always refrigerate it overnight. The next day I add the 'SV' onions and the 'dry sauteed' golden brown mushrooms before serving. I don't care for mushrooms that look like snails and are 'mushy'.

            2. I've only been making Boeuf Bourguignon for 58 years.... Have tweaked the original recipe some over time, but I always add the onions and mushrooms (with the Cognac) just before serving. Pretty much always make the stew the day/night before (at least).

              No longer do I remove the veggies from the stew, nor do I puree them. We like the rustic effect, and the flavors.

              This may be your first time making Boeuf B, but I'm willing to bet it won't be your last!

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChefJune

                Who am I to argue with 58 years of experience with this dish! Since I started my beef kind of late - it won't be done until 6:30 or 7pm - I'm going to follow your advice and prepare the onions and mushrooms tomorrow. I also like your comment that you don't remove the vegetables from the stew, and I shall follow that advice. If I were serving to company I might strain the sauce, but this is just for the family. The spouse prefers that the carrots and onions remain, anyway.

                Thank you.

              2. I appreciate everyone's excellent advice, which is about evenly divided between those who prepare the entire stew the day before, and those who wait until ready to serve to prepare the onions and mushrooms. I'm going to wait until tomorrow to braise the onions and saute the mushrooms.

                Now onto the next question. The beef is simmering in the oven. The recipe specifies the use of a casserole 9 to 10 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep, so I used an LC oven that was just 9 inches in diameter, but the proper depth. I could only fit two cups of wine (recipes calls for three cups) and one cup of beef stock (recipe calls for up to 3 cups). I weighed the meat so I used precisely the quantity called for - 3 pounds - cut into 2-inch chunks, again as specified.

                The stew is to braise, covered, for 2.5 to 3 hours in the oven. I thought I would check it after 1.5 hours and add equal measures of wine and stock if the liquid level has fallen enough to add more.

                I haven't cooked a great number of recipes from MTAFC, but I have made numerous recipes from Julia Child's other books, and it surprises me that the liquid quantity I was able to fit into the size pan specified is only half what the recipe specifies. In hindsight I should have used the bigger french oven, but I figured there must be a good reason for Child specifying a shallow depth of just 3 inches, and that's what I went with.

                So should I worry about the wine quantity, or the wine/broth ratio? Thanks again.

                5 Replies
                1. re: janniecooks

                  I just made the MTAFC recipe last week, after having made a few other versions in the past (Saveur, NYT, etc.). I think hers was superior, FWIW. And was even more delicious on the second or third day.

                  What was the volume of the LC French oven you used? I have the 3.5 quart oven which is 9" in diameter. I have in the past been flummoxed by the lack of volume in it. I note from the LC site that the 10" or greater diameter ovens have a lot more volume. The Child book calls for "enamel" cookware a lot so one is really baited into using LC, even if that is not what was contemplated.

                  When I made the recipe I used a 6 quart heavy sautee pan and it had ample room. That said, I think 3 cups of wine (= one bottle) is perhaps excessive, provided your meat is covered. Tracking the later steps of the Child recipe, I probably spent 45 minutes reducing the cooking liquid to achieve the desired consistency. I think adding stock is suggested only if a bottle of wine is not sufficient to cover the meat.

                  1. re: equinoise

                    I agree that Julia's recipe is terrific and even better a day or two after it was made.

                    I'm not sure of the volume of the oven I used, it was 9" in diameter but only bout 3 to 3/5 inches deep; next time I will use my regular LC dutch oven, which is both bigger in diameter and depth (6 inches). I don't know why I ignored my common sense and used the smaller oven. LC is the only really heavy cookware I have so that's what I used.

                    I like the combination of broth and wine, and agree that an entire bottle isn't necessary. There was no need to add additional liquid half-way through the cooking time; the resulting sauce was perfect with half the quantity of wine and broth used.

                    The dish was indeed delicious, and I made the mushrooms and onions on the second day. After making them separately once, next time I plan to skip them. While traditional, I don't think they add that much and am certain we will not miss them. But we agreed that this stew was outstanding and can't imagine any other could be as good.

                    1. re: janniecooks

                      Did you reduce the wine separately before adding it to the other stock?

                      1. re: Puffin3

                        No - add the wine straight from the bottle.