I received the ultimate compliment from the forum--a request to post the recipe--so here it is. The famous Boeuf Bourguignon is a refinement of a simple peasant beef stew with red wine as the braising liquid. The simple stew involves browning the beef in a bit of oil, then sweating sliced onions and carrots in the same oil, assembling everything in a casserole dish, adding tomatoes, red wine and seasoning (garlic, a bay leaf and a pinch of thyme), then slow-simmering for a few hours. Boeuf Bourguignon involves some high-class refinements: One omits the sliced onions. Any fat is skimmed off, the meat is removed, and the remaining casserole contents are strained through a colander, pressing as many of the juices from the seasoning vegetables as possible. The juices are reduced at a rapid boil. Beurre-manie (aka uncooked butter roux) is added to thicken the sauce. The sauce is returned to the meat, and sauteed mushrooms and brown-braised pearl onions are added.
For this Easter's dinner I made a variation on this recipe using lamb instead of beef--hence Mouton Bourguignon. I followed Julia Child's recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon as given on pages 236 and 237 of her magnificent book The Way To Cook. With one variation. I was too lazy to make the brown-braised pearl onions, so I retained the sliced onions as dictated in her master "Zinfandel of Beef" recipe.
So here's what I did:
4 pounds lamb meat suitable for stew, cut into 1-1/2 to 2-inch pieces (cubes, if the meat is thick enough)
Olive oil for browning the meat (see below for quantity)
2 cups sliced onions
2/3 cup sliced carrots
Inexpensive but decent red wine (I used a cheap Cotes du Rhone), about one bottle
2-3 large unpeeled garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
6 cups mushrooms, quartered (see sauteed mushrooms, below)
1/2 tablespoon chopped shallot (see sauteed mushrooms, below)
2 tablespoons each flour and butter for the beurre-manie
You will need a heavy skillet, about 12-inch diameter, and a three-quart casserole or baking dish with a cover.
1. Brown the meat: Dry the meat cubes with paper towels (wet meat won't brown properly--trust Julia and me on this; I've tried skipping this step and the meat just won't brown!). Put 1/16 inch of olive oil in the skillet over medium high heat. When very hot but not smoking, add as many pieces of lamb as will fit without crowding. Turn the pieces frequently until brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes (tongs are useful for this). Transfer the lamb pieces to the casserole as they are done. Repeat until all the meat has been browned.
2. Skim all but a tablespoonful or so of the fat from the skillet (you may wish to save this--see step 5). Add the sliced onions and carrots, stirring and tossing for 3-4 minutes until the onions are browned lightly. Scrape them out and put them over the lamb in the casserole.
3. Pour a cup of wine into the skillet and free up any coagulated juices and brown bits. Pour it all into the casserole.
4. Add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme to the casserole. Pour in enough wine to almost cover the meat. Bring the casserole to a boil, then reduce heat so that it is just simmering. Cover and cook at a slow simmer for two or more hours, until the lamb is fork-tender. Turn every half hour or so, and adjust the heat as necessary to keep at a low simmer.
5. When the stew is nearly done, prepare the sauteed mushrooms (see page 313 in The Way To Cook): In a frying pan (such as the one you used to brown the lamb), heat 1 tablespoon butter and one teaspoon of olive oil over high heat. Or, as I did, use an equivalent amount of the fat you removed from browning the lamb. Add the mushrooms and toss and swirl frequently, as the mushrooms absorb the fat. In a minute or two more, when it reappears on their surface, add the shallots and sautee for a minute or two more, to let the shallots brown lightly.
6. Finishing the stew: Set a colander over a saucepan large enough to receive the liquid in the casserole. Pick out the chunks of meat from the casserole and set aside. Then pour the casserole contents into the colander. Press the juices through the colander; try to mash the carrots a bit, although you don't have to do a food mill job here. Remove the colander and de-grease the liquid in the saucepan. Return the meat to the casserole.
7. Wash your hands thoroughly, and then prepare the beurre-manie by kneading together the flour and butter with your fingers until they are thoroughly mixed to a paste (this is of course the same as preparing a roux, except we don't cook it).
8. You will probably have a lot of liquid in the saucepan at this point. Boil it down vigorously to three cups. Or two cups or less, if you want the Michelin starred-restaurant treatment (frankly, having had both, I like the more ample sauce you get with three cups). Reduce the heat, add the beurre-manie, and stir until the roux is melted and the sauce is thickened. At this point taste the sauce and add salt to your taste; a pinch was to my taste, but I don't like a lot of salt--add more or less or none as you wish. Pour it all onto the lamb in the casserole. Add the mushrooms, and bring the casserole to a simmer, gently folding everything together until it's heated through.
This is good with roasted new potatoes or noodles or rice, and with a salad or olives and/or your choice of vegetable accompaniments.
Serve with an excellent red wine. I chose a 20 year old Hermitage and wasn't disappointed with the pairing.
One final note: after I strained the casserole contents through the colander, I saw this colander full of the remains of braised onions, carrots, and some shreds of lamb and I thought, "this is WAY too good to throw away". So I refrigerated it and it made an excellent lunch a couple of days later.
Last edited by Paul Winalski
on Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.