Julie Powell issued herself an interesting challenge: cook every dish from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Her blog was a hit, her book was a success, the movie based on her life was a delight—and, gracefully, they included boeuf bourguignon in the film. Folks, this is my all-time favorite dish. It’s what I’d choose for my last meal. It’s what I’ve served to anyone I’ve ever cared deeply for. It is, I think, one of the greatest all-inclusive cooking lessons: you learn chopping, light butchery, searing, deglazing, braising, seasoning, and more. You learn how flavors develop over time. You learn how to take the bright, the harsh, the tough, and mellow each of them into something harmonious and beautiful. It’s also an important part of food history: it was the very first dish cooked by Julia on the very first episode of her groundbreaking TV cooking show, The French Chef, a show that would define cooking shows as we know them today. It is pure cooking, and you owe it to yourself and those you care about to whip up a batch.
VERDICT: Beef Burgundy is a rich, comforting, relatively easy French classic, and Julia Child’s version is its epitome. There are easier ways, faster ways, even arguably better ways to do it—but sometimes, there isn’t anything quite like the genuine article.
3 pounds chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
4 or 5 carrots, chopped
3 cups red Burgundy wine
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beef stock, plus more as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound pearl onions, unpeeled
Boiling water, as needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
SEASON THE beef with salt and pepper; set aside.
IN A large saucepan, bring 1½ quarts water to a simmer. Add the bacon and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to dry.
PREHEAT THE oven to 400°F.
IN A large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 3 minutes, until browned and all the fat has rendered out. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate, reserving the fat in the skillet.
ADD THE beef to the skillet—in batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the pan. Cook until deeply browned on all sides, about 5 minutes, then transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
ADD THE onion and carrots to the skillet. Cook in the remaining fat, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the wine to the skillet, stirring and scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside.
TRANSFER THE beef to a Dutch oven and toss with the flour. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the flour is toasted. Remove from the oven, flip the beef, and bake for 10 minutes more.
REDUCE THE oven temperature to 325°F. Add the sliced onion, carrots, bacon, the wine from deglazing the skillet, and enough stock to barely cover the beef and vegetables in the Dutch oven (about 1 cup). Add the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the thyme, the bay leaf, and the tomato paste. Stir well to incorporate. Return to the oven and braise, stirring occasionally, for about 3 hours, or until the beef is very tender.
MEANWHILE, PLACE the pearl onions in a heatproof bowl. Fill a bowl with ice and water. Cover the onions with boiling water and let soak for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to the ice bath to stop the cooking, then drain. Pinch each onion at the stem to slip off the skin or peel with a paring knife.
IN A large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the pearl onions and cook, tossing, until browned, 4 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock, stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover the skillet and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, or until the onions are soft but still retain their shape.
IN ANOTHER skillet, melt the butter over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
REMOVE THE Dutch oven from the oven. Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside. Strain the braising liquid into a large saucepan. Reserve the vegetables and discard the bay leaf. Over medium-high heat, reduce the liquid until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 10 minutes.
FOR EACH serving, place a few pieces of beef on a plate. Add a couple of carrots, a healthy pile of the sliced onions, and a little pile each of mushrooms and pearl onions. Top with extra sauce and garnish with parsley.