Having made traditional boeuf bourguignon via Julia Child’s recipe, when I encountered this version on the New York Times’ cooking page, I was all in: there’s that slow-cooked beef that you crave with traditional boeuf bourguignon, ample wine added to the roux, mushrooms, and onions–but the recipe is dramatically simplified, and spiced very sparingly. I also found the wine flavor in the traditional version to be overpowering, whereas in this recipe, the positive flavors in the wine come through, but only just. In short, the beef is really taking center stage, as beef is wont to do.
I think all meat-eaters can agree, there’s nothing like slow-cooked meat. When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, packed full of flavor and juicy, it’s terribly hard to resist. (So why would we? The answer is, we don’t.)
Of course, we can’t eat meat like this for every meal. Aside from being labor- and attention-intensive, meat like this isn’t always the most holistically nutritious thing we can put in our bodies for dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s bad for us, per se. But a head of broccoli probably has a little more to offer in the “nutrients” department…(I’m sure there are some meat fans out there ready to argue with me. Shower me in your meat stats, you carnivores!)
Additionally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, reader, but it’s not the best for the environment. Unless you buy locally-sourced, organic, grass-fed-and-finished beef (costly and often not quite as convenient as the grocery store standard), it’s a little challenging to negate your carbon footprint on some delicious, delicious beef brisket.
I will say I could not find organic brisket at the grocery store. If you really want “guilt free” brisket, this may be an occasion to stop by your local artisan butcher! Support local, eat local, reduce the carbon footprint. Rock on with your bad self. Rock on!!
In summary, a dish like this really calls for an occasion. In this instance, my sister and I ate this together before I take off to move across the country; this, of course, made it taste all the better.
This is one of the most comforting dishes I have prepared in a long, long time. Warming spices, slow-cooked beef, and mashed potatoes–I didn’t even make a vegetable to go along with dinner! It was all meat and potatoes, all dinner long. Who is complaining about this? I ask you!
Of course, if it’s not your bag to eat just meat and potatoes, add some green stuff on a separate plate. The world is your oyster! (Whatever that means.) But tuck in for a cozy, candlelit dinner with someone you love, maybe with a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe with some Amber O’Douls, and feast on the fruits of this 4.5 hour dinner. The wait is definitely worth it. Trust me.
I seasoned the brisket with salt and pepper, trimmed a small layer of the fat cap, and cut it into cubes to be browned in vegetable oil in my cast iron.
Meanwhile, I sautéed chopped onions and mushrooms in rendered beef fat in my Le Creuset, then added spices, thyme, wine, broth, and the browned beef…
About 3 1/2 hours over low heat later, aaaand:
Yes. Yes to all of this!! I was stuffed after one serving, but still wanted more…leftovers just got a lot more exciting.
[This recipe adapted from Pierre Franey of the New York Times.]
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!
- 4 lbs beef brisket, trimmed to 1/4” fat cap and cut into 1 ½” cubes
- Reserved brisket fat, for rendering
- Salt and pepper
- 1 Tbs vegetable oil
- 2 c chopped onions (about two medium onions)
- 5 heads of garlic, pressed
- 1 lb fresh mushrooms, preferably bella
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- ¼ c all-purpose flour
- 1 bottle Beaujolais wine (Beaujolais Villages is a great low-cost bottle)
- 1 c low-sodium beef stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 whole allspice
Generously season brisket with salt and pepper, and rub spices into the meat. Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes in a single layer, with the fat side down first to render the fat. This will take several batches. Drain browned meat cubes on a plate lined with paper towels. (The point here is not to cook the meat all the way through, but to sear it on the outside.)
While meat is draining, heat reserved beef fat in a heavy bottomed cooking pot, like a Le Creuset or cast iron kettle, until you have several tablespoons of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan. Toss fat chunks or feed to a lucky dog.
Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the first cast iron pan used to cook the meat cubes, and sautée about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. In the second pan with the rendered beef fat, add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring well, for about 1 minute.
Add wine, beef stock, bay leaf, cloves, allspice, thyme, sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms, and beef cubes to the second pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, over very low heat for about 3 and ½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when gently squeezed with tongs.
Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice. Red wine or dark ales are wonderful compliments to this dish.