Looks good, doesn’t it? Another delicious plate of braised goodness to enhance a lovely Sunday afternoon, right? Nothing like taking some delectable ingredients for a long, wet thermal haul in the old dutch oven on top of the stove, right? Well, not exactly.
This lovely dish starts in that most delightful of French way: bacon. I usually start a braise off browning meat in olive oil, then moving onto the veggies and finally building the liquid up before adding the meat back in and walking away for a good couple-a hours. To make something French, simply make bacon lardons thy fat source and replace any diced onions with pearls. I don’t mean to demean the difference, in fact these simple swaps can makeover a dish and take something you know how to do and turn it into something new.
I thought that Boeuf Bourginon would be an easy transition into French cuisine. I’ve braise plenty of lamb shanks, osso buco, oxtails and the like over the years and I figured this would be easy. The flavors were decidedly French, but the meat came out too dry. I blame this on two factors: First, the beef was very lean and I assume (?) that the beef you’d get on the continent is more natural, contains more connective tissue and was probably slightly fattier (not necessarily more marbled, but just not as lean). Second, the recipe called for only two hours in the braise, which I don’t think was enough to properly gelatinize what little connective tissue was in the stew meat.
The final product was good, but the meat could have been a bit better. Had I done this with something like oxtails, I’d have had no problem. Next time, I will not make this dish with supermarket stew beef, but instead purchase a larger/more interesting cut and cut it up myself, as I guess is typical and traditional for this dish. So, I’d advise a bit of planning ahead when attempting to be authentic, and not simply assuming that our modern US grocery store fare will be indistinguishable from the food that these hallmark dishes were built around. Let me be clear, this is no reason to shy away from grander aspirations, rather don’t be afraid of making mistakes because after doing this wrong, I gained so much insight into what really makes this dish work. Until next time, readers, cook on!