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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.

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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!

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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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions
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.

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7 Responses to "Beef Bourguignon and Memories of Paris"
  1. This is a beautiful representation of how food triggers certain memories, even more so than the places we have visited.

  2. Paige Peters says:

    sounds yummy MB. Know you will be enjoying this dish real soon as I hear it’s freezing stateside. Stay warm and enjoy 🙂

  3. Buckeye says:

    Usually I stay well away from blogs (for good reasons for those of you who know me), but I am hooked on this one. The fact that my spouse, MB, is the author may have something to do with the attraction.

    I must tell you that being the spouse of a food blogger and food lover is worth its weight in gold. MB’s voice frequently can be heard drifting from the kitchen, “Should I try this recipe or that recipe? Oh, I’ll just do both.” Good for me, bad for my effort to stay trim.

    MB’s “Beef Bourguignon and Memories of Paris” post has led me to write my first comment on a blog ever — because MB failed to mention two things that I think important.

    First, the recipe from Ina that MB shared with you all produces a pot a Beef Bourguignon that is amazing the day it is made and even more amazing the next day. No kidding. Give it a try. In fact, if I were going to serve Beef Bourguignon to some one important, I would prepare the dish a day early.

    Second, MB forgot to mention that we also had Beef Bourguignon on our first trip to Paris in December 2003, one year before the trip with Shannon and Joe that MB discusses in her posting. Believe it or not, Paris in December 2003 was my first introduction to the world’s most wonderful stew, and along with chicken dijonnaise and crepes — lots of crepes — was a welcome refuge from the wet and cold of December.

    Food was also the refuge from some tourist activities that did not go quite right. The one I will always remember is MB taking us to Paris’ Natural History Museum. Sounds like a good idea for a family traveling with three children, yes?. Well, the Museum turned out to be the most unusual.

    We arrived to find a great hall completely filled with animal skeletons. Nothing spent on dioramas here, just hundreds of skeletons lined up in the center of the hall, like some ghostly version of Noah’s Ark. And, in glass cases around all four walls were literally thousands of jars of the innards of said animals in formeldehyde … brains, stomachs, livers, hearts, you name it. It was MB’s worst nightmare. The kids loved it. I was bored.

    Safely away from the Museum — tucked in some warm cafe — we dug out the guide book and discovered the line “The Natural History Museum is the strangest, most bizarre collection of natural exhibits ever assembled. This is museum as freak show.” MB, just finishing a crepe, said “Hmm, perhaps I should have read that before went.” I just thought “where do we eat next?”

  4. denise siciliano says:

    Question from someone who is neither the cook you are, MB, nor the technical wiz: went to print your recipe for Beef Bourguignon because my family LOVED it, but there isn’t a good print function from the blog. Is that something that can be added for your recipes? Planning to keep a file! xo

  5. Nancy Pilchen says:

    Hi Mary Beth…not sure how I got this but then to find out that you’re the writer of the blog — I had to chuckle. Long ago and oh so far away from AUCP….
    Will try it for sure.

  6. Fiona Devery says:

    MB, hi. Having just returned from the warm beaches of Australia I was ill prepared for this icy blast and snowy lock-down, but tonight we will be having Beef Bourguignon in front of a raging fire to help soften the blow. I have substituted the frozen onions (still acclimatising and couldn’t possibly venture out) with the white ends of a bunch of baby leeks I bought at the local Farmers Market Thank you (and Ina) for the inspiration.

    I love your blog and have been lazily following it by clicking on the link via an email sent many moons ago. Like Buckeye, this is the first blog I have followed (surprisingly for one who is such a foodie at heart). I have certainly visited many food blogger sites but just never committed. I can’t wait to read more of your posts. Very inspiring!

    Will look forward to having a coffee at our favourite little Patisserie very soon.

    • Hooray! You are home! Sorry to have such grim weather to greet you, but beef bourguignon should help ease the transition nicely. Yes, looking forward to a coffee very soon!

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