Until recently, many American recipes for this French classic simply called for stew meat, which works well for many stews, but never quite resembled the larger pieces of soft, unctuous meat I’d enjoyed in the when traveling through Burgundy.
What was this marvelous cut? French women’s magazines sometimes called for boeuf pour bourgignon—beef for Burgundy stew; other recipes called for boeuf à braiser—beef for braising. No help there.
Some trial and error once home, steered me in the direction of boneless short ribs. Now, short ribs may not be precisely the cut used by a bonne femme bourguignon, but it is a near perfect soul mate: lusciously moist, tender, yielding in all the right ways, and never stringy.
Sometimes, I can’t believe how easy this stew really is, especially for all the “wows” I get when I serve it. Pouring in a good wine, of course, is key. The classic choice is a red Burgundy, but I love the vague fruitiness (and easygoing price) of a Beaujolais cru (from one of the ten top villages of the Beaujolais region, such as Morgon, Brouilly, or Moulin-à-Vent). Buy an extra bottle to pour with dinner.
Makes 6 servings
2 1/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Olive oil or vegetable oil, if needed
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Beaujolais Villages, red Burgundy, or Pinot Noir
1 cup low-sodium beef broth, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, left whole if small, quartered or halved if larger
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Any-Night Baked Rice
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the bacon until crisp in a large ovenproof Dutch oven, heavy enameled pot, or braiser over medium heat. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings (or add oil to equal about 1 tablespoon total). Brown beef in batches in the hot drippings over medium-high heat about 5 to 7 minutes per batch, turning as necessary to brown evenly. Drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add chopped yellow onions to the pan; cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Return meat to pot; add the cooked bacon, wine, beef broth, thyme, and bay leaf; bring to a boil, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of pot. Cover and bake until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours.
3. About 15 minutes toward the end of the cooking time, prepare the onions and mushrooms. In a large saucepan, cook the frozen pearl onions according to package directions. Drain. In the same saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat; cook and stir the mushrooms until tender and lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Return onions to pan; cover and keep warm.
4. Transfer the beef from the pot to a bowl; cover to keep warm. Remove and discard bay leaf. Pour juices and solids into a large measuring cup and skim fat. You want 2 cups of pan liquid total (including the bacon, onions, and garlic in the liquid). If you have more, boil the liquid in the pot over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 cups. If you have less, add additional beef broth to make 2 cups. Return to the pot and bring to a boil.
5. In a small bowl, work the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the flour together with your fingers to make a paste. Add bit by bit to the cooking liquid, stirring with a wire whisk to blend in any lumps. Cook and stir until the sauce boils and thickens; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Return beef to the pot, add cooked mushrooms and onions; heat through. Serve in shallow bowls with the rice.