Three Onion Beef Bourguignon

I’ve always equated beef stew with the holidays. It was always a winter staple in our house and just about the only way to get me to eat turnips (you’ll notice my own version has none). I put a sweet twist on mom and dad’s recipe by making my beef stew with three kinds of onions: a sliced white onion, pearl onions, and savory cipollini onions.

And speaking of onions, I took a shortcut and used frozen pearl onions. If you buy them fresh, be prepared to spend a lot of time cleaning them. It’s just not worth it in my opinion, so frozen or jarred (and then rinsed) is the way to go.

This stew takes about 4 hours altogether, so it’s perfect for a Sunday supper or a big family gathering. One of the most crucial steps is browning the beef at the very start. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in as many as 4 batches so that the beef is not crowded. It took me about 40 minutes, but you could really taste it in the finished product. If you skip this advice and crowd the beef in the pan, it will steam instead of sear and you’ll really be lacking in flavor.

Most grocery stores will sell prepackaged “stew meat” that’s already been cubed. If you can’t find it, you can always purchase something like a chuck roast or bottom round roast. If you go to a butcher, they’ll know exactly what you need and will be able to cut it up for you to save you some time. Lucky for your wallet, these tend to be very cheap cuts of meat but you’d never know it once you taste how delicious it becomes once the stew is ready.

A traditional beef bourguignon uses a lot of butter, because the French love their butter. And so do I; this is one of the few recipes I make where I refuse to eliminate the butter. But if you’re not as into it, you can saute the vegetables in olive oil or grape seed oil for a healthier twist.

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Three Onion Beef Bourguignon

  • 2 lbs stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bottle red wine, I used a merlot
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cipollini onions, sliced
  • 10 oz frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 8 oz button mushrooms
  • French baguette, for serving

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To start, pat the beef dry with paper towels and coat with a thin layer of flour that’s been seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat some oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the beef in batches, searing each side, adding more oil as needed. The beef should have a good, dark sear on it and you’ll notice a lot of brown yumminess building up on the bottom of the pot. After browning, remove the beef to a bowl and keep it warm.

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Add about a cup of water to the pot to deglaze, and use your spatula to scrape up all the crusty brown bits on the bottom. Pour the liquid over the beef and then return the pan to the stove.

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Reduce the heat to medium and melt two tablespoons of butter in the pan. Toss in the sliced white onion and the carrots. Cook until the onion becomes soft and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Mix in the tomato paste and add the beef along with its liquid back into the pot. Add the wine, rosemary, thyme, cloves and bay leaves to the pot. Cover and simmer for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

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After the stew has simmered away for a few hours, melt a tablespoon of butter in a large saute pan. Saute the cipollini onions until the just start to soften and add them into the stew. Repeat these steps with the pearl onions and the button mushrooms. Continue to simmer the stew for another 30 minutes to an hour and then serve it with some nice French bread.

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