From America's Test Kitchen Season 3: Beef Burgundy
Leave it to the French to make beef stew into an elegant affair. Unfortunately, when translated to the home kitchen, classic, intensely flavorful beef burgundy, also known as boeuf bourguignon, tends to lose its appeal. We’ve seen too many versions of this rustic French dish with tough meat or a dull sauce and no flavor complexity. We wanted to bring this dish to its earthy, robust, warm potential: satisfyingly large chunks of tender meat draped with a velvety sauce brimming with the flavor of good Burgundy wine and studded with caramelized mushrooms and pearl onions.
We started by rendering salt pork until crisp, then browned large chunks of beef chuck roast in the rendered fat. For the braising liquid, a combination of chicken broth and water, enhanced with a small amount of dried porcini mushrooms and tomato paste, provided balanced, well-rounded flavor. Using anything less than a full bottle of red wine (preferably a Burgundy, but a good Pinot Noir will suffice) left the sauce lacking and unremarkable. We deglazed the pan twice, used a roux to thicken the sauce, and then added the wine. Wrapping the aromatic vegetables in cheesecloth made it easy to remove them from the braising liquid. While the liquid reduced to a velvety sauce, we simmered pearl onions then sautéed them briefly with mushrooms to create the perfect garnish for our rich, tender beef.?Why This Recipe Works: Given the amount of simmering time required for classic Beef Burgundy (page 268), we thought this stew could be easily morphed into a slow-cooker adaptation that would have the same tender beef chunks and rich, earthy sauce as the original.
For a long braise, chuck roast cut into pieces is the best choice. The usual first step in making a stew is to brown the meat, but we found that we could get the same meaty flavor base from browning only half the beef. We used rendered bacon fat instead of oil; the bacon would go back into the stew at the end, lending a smoky note. Sautéed carrots and onions went into the slow-cooker insert next, with plenty of garlic, thyme, and tomato paste to withstand the long cooking time. As our braising liquid, beef broth tasted tinny but chicken broth worked well. We mixed it with red wine and a surprising ingredient, soy sauce, which intensified the savory flavors in the stew as well as deepened its color. To enrich the sauce, we stirred in a small amount of tapioca, a common thickening agent, in place of flour. We prepared the traditional onion and mushroom garnish separately, when the stew was almost finished cooking, and folded it in. The final touch was more red wine, which we reduced first so that it wouldn’t impart a sour alcoholic taste. This slow-cooker beef burgundy had everything we would expect from the refined French original.
If you cannot find salt pork, thick-cut bacon can be substituted. Cut it crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces and treat it just as you would salt pork, but note that you will have no rind to include in the vegetable and herb bouquet. To make this dish a day or two in advance, see “Advance Preparation of Beef Burgundy,” below. Boiled potatoes are the traditional accompaniment, but mashed potatoes or buttered noodles are nice as well.