I have to admit – I’m in a bit of a rut. Seems whenever I’m feeding a crowd, I pull out Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris, and turn to the Beef Bourguignon recipe. But why not? Ina has graciously perfected the recipe for me (thanks Ina), it’s such great fun to light cognac-soaked vegetables on fire in the pursuit of culinary greatness, and it’s really the perfect party food on a cold winter’s day. And baby, it’s cold outside.
Oh, and this fabulous stew also conjures up memories of traveling with the kids in Paris – years ago when the kids were actually shorter than us. You see, once upon a time, we were posted in London for three years. This served as an incredible launching pad for all sorts of adventures on the European continent. And our travels were made all the better when friends joined the traveling party.
One Christmas, our dear friends Shannon and Joe came to London for a visit with their four girls, and we hopped on the Eurostar to Paris. This made us a party of 11. We wandered the streets and toured the sights. But as you might imagine, travel is all about the food for me. Honestly we were amazed that this huge crew didn’t phase a single restaurant staff we encountered. We feasted on one delicious bistro meal after another — simply prepared steak and frites, roast chicken, terrific brick oven pizzas, a variety of crepes – and oh, amazing beef bourguignon. And baby, it was cold outside that week as well. There is a reason no one sings about “December in Paris.” Yikes.
Everyone decided an adventure to the Eiffel Tower was a must-do, but I begged to differ, and opted out. (Same issue as skiiing – I don’t like heights, and I don’t like to be cold.) I am completely content to admire its wonder from afar. Instead, I wandered into pâtisseries and chocolate shops, found wonderful coffee to drink, and collected all sorts of fantastic things to eat for our return trip to London on the Eurostar. (Though come to think of it, the smelly cheese was not very popular with the other passengers on the train – but no worries – it didn’t last.)
Never mind that the wind chill was well below freezing and survival required huddling like penguins (a little visual for those of you who have seen March of the Penguins). The others were a determined lot. Winding their way through the queue at le Tour took nearly and hour, as a light snow turned into a serious snowstorm. The plan had been for all to go all the way to the top. But it was so cold and windy at the first level that most of the gang bailed and hung out in the indoor café to stay warm. Only Joe and the two oldest children – Elaine and our Sarah made it to the pinnacle, and have the photos to prove it. Weather wimps, they are not…
And as a reward, steaming bowls of Beef Bourguignon were ordered at a cozy little bistro that evening to help them thaw out. It’s been a staple at both homes ever since. Ina’s rich, boozy version takes us right back to Paris. Invite a few friends over, light a fire in the fireplace, whip up a batch and I promise you’ll feel like you’re in a Paris bistro as well. Bon Appetit!
The Barefoot Contessa Beef Bourguignon
Note from MB: This serves 6-8, so I generally make a batch-and-a-half, and serve it over mashed potatoes or wide buttered noodles.
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- 8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
- 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
- 2 yellow onions, sliced
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
- 1/2 cup Cognac
- 1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
- 1 can (2 cups) beef broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 pound frozen whole onions
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.
Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.