I’ve been wanting to make this for quite a while, for a few reasons … I don’t know a better hearty meal for a cold winter’s evening – and I’ve been promising Miss Bambola I’d make it for ages!
This is a fairly time consuming recipe, and can be intimidating – but believe me, it’s worth it and it does become pretty easy once you’re familiar with it as each component is really simple on its own. It’s also quite tolerant of variation, so feel free to add veges or change ratios and so on.
Come serving time this will sit nicely on one of the staples – polenta or rice, for example – or can be eaten from a bowl with crusty bread.
What follows is a cut down and lazified version of that appearing in Stephanie Alexander’s “The Cook’s Companion” (an absolute must-have IMHO), look there for compliments, garnishes, and a stricter (*coughmoreaccurateslashbettercough*) recipe.
As you can see I’m the kind of person that believes in maison plus (or suffers from OCD, if you prefer). If you’re an unbeliever with decent knife skills, you could certainly just cut and prep as you go – but I tend to take that time to prepare the rest of the meal. So for me the first step is:
Set aside the measured ingredients and cut everything to size …
… and admire the awesomeness of your preparedness.
Once you’re done gloating, in a heavy iron pot brown the bacon first gently, then onion after and set aside.
Season beef with pepper and brown a few at a time in remaining oil and bacon fat – but don’t overcrowd the pan! You just want to seal it well and taunt the neighbours without letting it stew.
Poor off the fat, return beef to the pan and scatter over 2 tbsp flour. Crank the heat, stir and allow the flour to cook a little.
Keeping it hot, pour in wine and lift and turn beef to allow it to bubble and reduce as it hits the pan.
Strictly speaking, one would flavour one’s dish with a /bouquet garni/ made by tying the assorted ‘erbs and orange zest in cloth and depositing it in the pot. I however am lazy, and do not currently possess said cloth, so I’m just going to “bung”* the herbs in with everything else and let the diners deal with the risk of a small slice of orange and a bay leaf (I’m sure they’ll cope). Once you’re done ranting (or at least, once I’m done) add the bacon and onion and their juices as well.
* Bung- verb, act of unceremoniously applying one object or ingredient to another larger item while looking in another direction and humming ‘LA LA LA LA LA’. syn, “plug”.
Now for my favourite bit – the actual stewing! You’ll want to pour stock over just enough to cover all the meat and such, and then cut a circle of baking paper to fit just inside and hold down the stew. I forget the name for this again, but trust me – it’s A Thing. Once patted down the lid goes on and the pot is transferred to the oven to bubble away for two hours.
These two hours are a good opportunity to get the rest of your meal ready, chat to your neighbours about that mysterious waft of awesome smells coming from “somewhere nearby”, dispose of that excess red wine in the recipe or run down the road for a Caprioska.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to further cement my obsessively clean kitchen in your mind with a snap of the sink after all this frying and cooking and tigers, oh my:
Two hours up? Back to work! Check if the meat is tender, if not leave it on for an hour at which point you can add the mushrooms (and soft vegetables) and return the pot to the oven for a further half hour.
Time for another Caprioska.
One of my favourite things about this kind of meal – particularly when you’re cooking for a large group – is that you can prepare almost ready to serve (such as this point, with the bourguignon) and then leave it as long as a day, before reheating and finishing off the dish. So if in doubt when you’ll want to serve.. just get it almost done and fire up when your guests are ready.
By now the smell of your kitchen is probably driving you to ravenous hunger, a sure sign that’s about ready. Pull the pot from the oven and return to the stove on a medium heat. Tear away the baking paper to reveal your glorious dinner:
The last step prior to serving has a fancy French name which eludes me at the moment, but is essentially a butter/flour thickener in the last stages of cooking off. You form a smooth paste by working the flour through the butter, then mix with a ladle of the juice from the pan, then return to the pan and work through the whole dish. After a minute or two on the stove this will begin to thicken and is ready to serve!
While I’m a fan of curling up on the couch with a bowl of just the bouguignon and a chunk of bread, we have been serving at the table (lah-dee-dah!) on polenta with shared sides, and I’d expect you could do quite a lot with garnishes to make things interesting – cripsy bacon, onion, shallots, some sour cream or a buttery white somethingarother, for example. It just smells too delicious to wait and I’ve never made it to garnish time personally..
In order of required ingredients..
200g fatty/streaky bacon in 1cm cubes
24 french shallots (or 12 small onions)
1.5kg chuck or blade steak in ~5cm cubes
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
18 small flat mushrooms (or 9 medium button)
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp brandy (optional)
2 cups red wine
2 cups well-flavoured meat stock
40g softened butter
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
2-3 stalks parsley
Small piece of orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. In an enamelled cast-iron pot (they might be expensive, but such artisans’ tools!), heat half the oil and brown the bacon gently. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3. Add onions and allow them to become golden, then set aside with bacon. Repeat with any additional hard vegetables one wishes to add.
4. Season beef with pepper and brown a few cubes at a time in oil (add remaining half) and bacon fat. As each cube becomes a rich brown, remove from the pan.
5. When beef is browned tip off fat, sprinkle over 2tbsp flour and turn with a wooden spoon, keeping heat high to allow the flour to cook.
6. Keeping the heat up, pour in wine and lift and turn beef to allow it to bubble and reduce as it hits the pan.
7. Add herbs and orange zest to the pan along with bacon and onion (and their juices).
8. Pour on stock to cover, press down a circle of baking paper and cover with a fitted lid.
9. Transfer pot to the oven and cook for 2 hours.
10. If meat is tender, add mushrooms and cook for another 30 minutes – if not, cook for a further hour before adding mushrooms and any other soft vegetables one may wish to include.
* Pot can be allowed to cool and reheated when required at this point – great for prep prior to a larger event.
11. To finish off the dish, ladle off 1 cup of juices from the pot, form a paste of butter and 2tbsp flour, and mix into the juice.
12. Return flour mix to the pot and mix thoroughly while returning to the boil to thicken slightly.
13. Serve, enjoy, relish.