I can’t contemplate a winter without Beef Bourguingnon. It’s the ultimate winter food. It’s the ultimate comfort food. It’s basically beef stew, a French one at that, but it’s so much more. It has a deep richness, a robustness, and this fabulous way of tasting homey and rustic all the while being polished and elegant.
You may notice that it’s pretty similar to Lazy Coq au Vin. The beef is seared in some sort of rendered pork fat, be it from salt pork or bacon or pancetta, and stewed in red wine, before met with caramelized pearl onions and mushrooms. The meatiness of the beef along with the salty-savory flavor of the pork infuse the full-bodied wine it’s all stewed in which, along with some carrots and onions in the pot, take the wine from grown up grape juice to a flavorful stock.
The first time I made Beef Bourguingnon, a number of years ago now, it was a revelation. I used Ina Garten’s recipe, and it was like nothing I had ever tasted. It was nothing like the stews of horror stories. No stringy beef, no grainy and overly congealed sauce, no mushy vegetables, no potatoes that became victims of endless hours of cooking—this is how you do stew. I’ve mentioned it before in Shrimp & Chorizo Stew, but these things are cardinal sins for me when it comes to stew.
Normally, I serve this in a wide bowl, poured over some oven roasted baby new potatoes, but why not take this a step further and make a potpie out of it? It is winter after all, and there’s no better time of year for it than now.
Making the crust is ridiculously simple, too. You could always use a store-bought crust, but making your own gives you the chance to get a little more flavor into it. Just load some flour, thyme, salt and sugar into a food processor and pulse to aerate, combine, and mince the thyme leaves.
Drop in some butter, which you’ve previously cut into small pieces and stashed in the freezer, and pulse until mix resembles damp sand. Don’t worry if there are some larger chunks of butter, still—they’ll work themselves out.
Turn the processor on and pour in a mix of ice cold water, spiked with a small splash of vinegar, and let it rip until it combines. Turn it out onto a floured surface, form it into a disk and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Don’t worry about the vinegar adding any harsh acidity to the crust; the taste is totally undetectable, but what it does provide is an incredibly flakey crust that you thought was only possible from bakeries or dreams.
(See the little dots of butter throughout the crust? That’s what you want for a flaky,
almost laminated crust.)
Topping the crust on some oven-safe bowls, filled with this rich stew, and baking until piping hot and golden brown makes the perfect warming winter dinner. I think I’ll eat one, sitting by the window and staring into the garden, waiting for the tulips to emerge.
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