In my last post, I shared with you the traditional Danish Christmas dessert I made for our holiday meal in honor of my husband's father's family. Today I'm featuring what I made as our entree -- a traditional French dish called boeuf bourgignon, or beef in red wine, in honor of my mother's side of the family.
My mother's father came to the U.S. from France and my mother's mother was also of French descent, so her cooking was very French-influenced. Mom would make boeuf bourguignon for special occasions such as Christmas. Even though I no longer eat beef, I wanted to make something special for my husband and his family. I actually found this meal very enjoyable to prepare -- and it was a connection to my mom, who passed away more than 15 years ago. I thought of her frequently as I made it.
Mom always served boeuf bourguignon with egg noodles and buttered croutons. I followed suit, leaving off the croutons. Before the main course, I served a simple mixed green salad with homemade white wine vinaigrette which had two of the main dish's ingredients in it: shallots and parsley.
Below are the recipes for both the beef and the salad dressing. My recipe for the beef is a simplified version of the original, which calls for rendering salt pork and cooking the onions and the beef in it. I use avocado or olive oil instead, which is both simpler and healthier. If I remember correctly, my mother would cook bacon and use the fat to brown the onions and beef. I believe she then added the crumbled bacon to the final dish.
I bought the best looking beef from Whole Foods. At $9.99 a pound, it's not inexpensive (but what do I, a non-meat eater, know about beef prices?). It is locally raised, grass-fed and hormone-free, and very lean. I thought it looked like very good quality -- good enough for a photo!
Avocado oil or olive oil
20 to 25 peeled white pearl onions, about 1 inch in diameter
3 tablespoons butter
1 lb. fresh white mushrooms, sliced
3 lbs. lean, boneless stew beef (pieces roughly 2 inches in size)
Bouquet garni (4 fresh parsley sprigs and 2 bay leaves, tied together
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup very finely chopped carrot, peeled
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot beef stock (I used Rachel Ray brand)
2 cups red Burgundy or other dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
To ensure no one element of your boeuf bourguignon is overdone, cook the onions, mushrooms and beef separately before finally combining them. I made the beef two days ahead and refrigerated it. The day before, I cooked the onions and mushrooms and added them to the beef. The day of, everything simmered on the stove top an additional 20 minutes or so.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy 8- or 10-inch skillet, heat a small amount of avocado or olive oil. Add the peeled onions and cook over medium to medium-high heat, turning them to brown them as evenly as possible.
Transfer onions to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Bake in the oven, uncovered, turning them once or twice, for 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from oven and set aside.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in an 8- to 10-inch stainless steel skillet. When foam subsides, cook the mushrooms, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes or until they are slightly soft. Add mushrooms to onions and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Add the beef chunks, 6 to 8 at a time to avoid crowding the skillet. Turn each piece to brown on all sides.
Remove beef with tongs to a heavy 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or casserole dish (one with a tight fitting lid). Repeat with remaining beef. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat.
Pour in the hot beef stock, blending vigorously with a wire whisk over medium-low heat. Blend in the wine and tomato paste and bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens. Stir in the minced garlic, dried thyme, salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour the sauce over the beef and stir gently. The sauce should almost, but not quite, cover the meat. Add more wine or beef stock if needed.
Bring to a boil, cover with lid and place in lower third of oven. Let cook, regulating oven temperature so the meat simmers slowly, for 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is tender. Gently stir in the onions and mushrooms, cover with lid and return to oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Before serving, remove the bouquet garni. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the fresh chopped parsley, if desired, and serve with egg noodles (mashed potatoes would also be an excellent choice).
White Wine Vinaigrette
In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon minced shallot and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Season with coarse salt and pepper.
Wishing you and your family a very happy and healthy New Year!