November 7, 2010

Thomas Keller's Boeuf Bourguignonne part I

Bernie and I had dinner at our favorite local restaurant on Friday night, Trattoria Stella's. I talked him into getting the braised beef short rib and gnocchi stew because I wanted to try it but wasn't sure I would like it.  Normally I can't talk him into anything but it ended up being the perfect cold weather dish. So Saturday I thought, I MUST MAKE STEW! But I want it with SHORT RIB! And I need a piece of Le Creuset to make it in! Dammit! I've been wanting a piece forever but they don't come cheap.  I settled on this Caribbean blue lovely, a 6.75 quart oval French oven. I was leaning towards round but the lady at the store said if you ever want to cook a chicken in it you'll want oval. Made sense to me!
I looked at a bunch of recipes but they were either missing the braised short ribs or the potatoes. Stew isn't stew without potatoes in my opinion. I dug up a recipe I read in Wine Spectator awhile back, Thomas Keller's take on Julia's famous Boeuf Bourguigonne. Oui! I should probably save this for a special occasion but maybe a test run is in order. Tom didn't make an easy adaptation that's for sure. Some trial and error might be involved. 

I wrote about wanting to do my own Julie-Julia project almost a year ago and haven't done a single recipe! One of the pitfalls of healthy eating doesn't leave a lot of room for haute cuisine and pork belly I guess. Shame.  Here is the recipe with my pictures and notes (italics).  If you're going to make this, read the recipe all the way through, then read it again and plan out your cookware.

Boeuf Bourguignonne 
by Thomas Keller

“Just as Julia was inspired by French classical cooking when she created her beef bourguignonne, I was inspired by classic French cuisine when I created my version of the dish.” 
—Thomas Keller

1 bottle hearty red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon 
2 cups diced yellow onions 
1⅔ cups peeled and sliced carrots 
2½ cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts only 
1 cup sliced shallots 
1 cup button mushrooms, plus 32 individual mushrooms with stems cut flush to caps 
12 thyme sprigs 
14 Italian parsley sprigs 
7 bay leaves 
1¾ teaspoons black peppercorns 
9 large garlic cloves, skin left on and smashed 
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning 
Freshly ground black pepper 
3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into 2-inch-by-1-inch pieces 
Canola oil 
6 to 8 cups veal or beef stock 
8 ounces small fingerling potatoes, cut into ½-inch-thick slices 
16 baby carrots, halved lengthwise 
4 ounces slab bacon, cut into 24 lardons 1½ inches long and 3?8 inch thick 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
12 red pearl onions and 12 white pearl onions, cooked 
Fleur de sel 
Dijon mustard

1. To make the red-wine reduction, combine the wine, 1 cup onions, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup leeks, 1 cup shallots, 1 cup mushrooms, 3 thyme sprigs, 6 Italian parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves, ½ teaspoon peppercorns and 3 garlic cloves in a large ovenproof pot with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer 30 to 40 minutes, or until the wine has reduced to a glaze.

Day 1: Sunday
My new buddy Tom doesn't give specifics about how to prepare the veggies except to "slice" or "dice."  I guess if I was a world class chef I should know.  Or maybe because you are just making the base of the stew it doesn't matter since you discard the veggies later anyways.  I don't know if I didn't simmer high enough?  Or is it that everything takes longer to cook at altitude?  But I reduced mine for about 55 minutes and really cranked up the temp the last 15.  I don't know if I truly reached "glaze" status.  Whatever that is.

Bernie helped with the first step by doing the grunt work - pouring wine, peeling carrots, pulling leeks, etc.  Bonus, we used our own leeks!  Holy crap they didn't look this big out in the garden!!!  I'll definitely grow these again next year even if just for one pot of potato leek soup and one fancy French boeuf stew.  If I had taken a stroll through the garden leftovers I could have used our parsley and thyme too. As for the wine, I used an old bottle of M. Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage that started off my love of French wine a decade didn't age well and maybe it will do best in a stew.
2. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat ⅛ inch of canola oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add just enough meat so as not to crowd the pan. Brown the meat on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the meat to a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat with the remaining meat, adding more oil if necessary.

The short ribs at the market were not boneless so the butcher prepared them for me and cut them to size. You pay a little more per pound because there is no bone, about $25 for the meat. I think the pieces are too big. Browning made a huge ass mess splattering oil everywhere. If anyone wants to get me a xmas gift, I'll take a splatter screen please.  I'm not good at browning. Did I brown it enough? I couldn't keep the temp on high without scalding myself and getting oil on the chandelier so I kept it around a 7 or 8.

3. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Add 3 thyme sprigs, 3 Italian parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves, 2 garlic cloves, and the remaining 1 cup onions, ⅔ cup carrots and 1½ cups leeks to the red-wine reduction, and toss together. Wet and wring dry enough cheesecloth to cover about 4 inches more than the diameter of the pot. Cover the vegetables with the cheesecloth, tucking in the edges to form a nest shape. Place the meat in the nest, and add enough stock to just cover the meat. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, and transfer to the oven. Reduce the heat to 325° F, and cook for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender.

As I poured the beef stock in I think the meat started to float. I put in about 7 cups. I bought one container of regular beef stock and one of reduced sodium.  The darn thing was so heavy my oven rack bowed.

4. Transfer the meat to an oven-proof pot or container, and discard the cheesecloth. Strain the liquid twice through a fine strainer, the second time into a saucepan, and discard the vegetables. Bring the liquid to a boil, spooning off any fat that rises to the top of the mixture. Strain the liquid over the meat. Let it cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day, up to 3 days.

I did Steps 1-4 on Sunday afternoon. Steps 1-2 took me under 2 hours. Another 45 minutes to finish up and get it in the oven. I cooked it for 2 hours.  Step 4 was fairly easy but I wasn't sure if I cooked the beef enough.  Does it get tougher or more tender the longer you cook it?

Stay tuned for Part II and the rest of the recipe tomorrow. Bon appetite!


  1. I have wanted to try Julia's version since I saw the movie, but it is just so damn complicated! Can't wait to see the rest of the story.

  2. For all this work I sure hope it turns out!



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