What a terrible misunderstanding that I accidentally cleared up last week. In Italy, people tend to go absolutely wild when you mention you’re going to make boeuf bourguignon. I always thought this was a bit weird, as boeuf bourguignon is nice, but not the nicest thing in existence, and pretty elaborate, but not the most elaborate thing in existence. Italy is a nation that looks down on anything that is too similar to Italian dishes (“we make it better”) and similarly on everything that is completely different from Italian food (“we’d never combine those ingredients in Italy”), surely they could find a reason to hold boeuf bourguignon in contempt?
Turns out that the devil is in the details, as always. When we say boeuf bourguignon, or beef bourguignon (which is the same thing except one is completely French and one is a monstrous hybrid of languages), we mean beef stewed in red wine and some other stuff, so beef stew, essentially. Italians, when they say ‘la bourguignonne‘, aren’t talking about beef or boeuf at all, but about fondue, which is something completely different.
A fondue bourguignonne is a fondue pot full of hot oil, in which you can deep-fry little bits of meat. It sounds pretty un-Italian, what with the whole deep-frying, and it is in fact a Swiss dish, which is strange because the name, bourguignonne, refers to a distinctly French region. Ah well, I’m sure the Italians just cocked that up somehow, as they sometimes do.
I totally understand now why Italians get so excited about la bourguignonne, because it is a lot of hassle, and it’s sort of exciting, and novel. And I guess meat is great and deep-fried anything is great so just imagine how great deep-fried meat is, right? But actually, I still prefer boeuf bourguignon. What can I say, I just love stew.
For 6 – 8 people (because you’re not going to be bothered making this for fewer, so just invest in ingredients, throw a dinner party and be sure to be in your friends’ good books for a while):
- 1.5 kg of (boneless) beef neck, or otherwise just stewing steak
- 150 gr of lardons or otherwise just bacon that you’ve cut up in little dice
- 1 tin of tomato puree (or if you get yours in a tube, 2 tablespoons)
- 1 onion (you pick – I like red)
- 300 gr mushrooms
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1.5 glass of red wine
- olive oil
- some flour
- 2 bay leaves
- a few sprigs of thyme
- a small sprig of rosemary
- some fresh, coarsely ground pepper
You also need some beef stock (about 400 ml), which we’re going to make using:
- beef shin – just the bone, or with some meat attached, you decide
- a carrot
- a stick of celery
- an onion
- a couple more bay leaves
- some whole peppercorns
If you can’t be bothered with making stock, obviously, just buy stock cubes. Beware that those will result in much saltier stock and so you absolutely want to avoid adding any more salt to the stew, especially considering that the lardons will make the whole thing pretty salty.
So, chuck your shin, carrot (peeled and halved), onion (peeled and quartered), celery (washed and cut in 4s), bay leaves and peppercorns in a big-ass pot full of water and boil the shit out of them. 4 hours, go. There’s always whispers of scooping off foam – mine didn’t foam up at all so I didn’t bother. You’ll have stock left by the end of this – freeze it.
OK enough stock, on to the stew.
Heat some oil in a big-ass, heavy duty pot. Fry the lardons, then remove them once they’ve leaked out all of their delicious bacony fat. Scoop them out, leaving the at in the pot.
Whilst your lardons fry, cut your beef neck into appropriately sized chunks and give them a frolicking about in a bowl of flour. Salt and pepper them, then add them to the pot with the oil and lardon fat. Add the garlic, too, crushed.
Once they’ve gone nice and brown, add tomato puree, the wine, the stock, the bay leaves, the rosemary, and the pepper. Mix well, then make sure it’s just below boiling, and leave to simmer for at least an hour and a half.
In the meantime, finely chop your onion, and clean and quarter your mushrooms. In a frying pan, heat some olive oil and gently fry the onion, then add the mushrooms and the fresh thyme.
When the beef is stewed properly, add the mushroom and onion mixture to the concoction. Mix well. Serve with mash or with whatever you prefer.