Adapted almost intact from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child (1968). Judy Hallman served this dish at a UNC Computation Center birthday lunch in 1974 and the first time I tried it, my taste buds were startled awake. I did not know it was possible to make food at home that tasted so good. She served it atop French bread and I still like it best that way. It is equally delicious with mashed potatoes.
6 ounces bacon
A large skillet
3 pounds lean stewing beef cut into 2- to 3-inch chunks and dried on paper towels
A 4-quart flameproof casserole or baking dish
3 cups full-bodied young red wine such as Mâcon or Burgundy
About 2 cups beef bouillon (you can use Better Than Bouillon beef base to make it)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 to 3 cloves mashed garlic
½ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt as necessary
Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut the bacon into 1 x 1/4 –inch sticks; these are called lardons. Brown the lardons lightly in the large skillet with a little oil, to render out the fat; this you will use for browning the beef. Remove the lardons to a paper towel when browned and drain.
Set the large skillet over moderately high heat and add a little olive oil if needed to film the pan by 1/16 inch. When almost smoking, brown the beef, a few pieces at a time so as not to crowd the pan; turn beef frequently to brown all sides. Place the beef, as it is browned, in casserole or baking dish.
Pour browning fat out of skillet, pour in the red wine and scrape up into it all the flavorful brown bits, then pour wine into casserole. Add the browned lardons to the casserole, and enough beef bouillon to cover the meat; stir in the rest of the ingredients and bring casserole to simmer on top of the stove. Cover the casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers slowly for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or longer, until beef is tender when pierced with a fork.
The mushroom garniture
Do this while the beef is simmering or at any convenient time.
About 1 pound fresh mushrooms
½ tablespoon oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt
Trim mushroom stems, wash mushrooms, and dry on a towel. Cut the caps into quarters and the stems on the bias. Heat oil and butter in a skillet until butter foam begins to subside, add the mushrooms, and toss over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes to brown the mushrooms very lightly. Remove to a side dish until needed, then toss with the salt.
Sauce and serving
3 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons flour
When the beef is done, set cover askew and drain the cooking liquid into a saucepan. You should have about 2 ½ cups; if liquid has boiled down too much, add a little beef bouillon. Skim off fat, bring liquid to the simmer, and taste very carefully for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Cream the butter and flour in a small bowl with a rubber spatula, to make a smooth paste. Pour in several spoonfuls of beef-cooking liquid and blend with a wire whisk, then pour this mixture into the beef liquid. This is now your sauce.
Add the mushrooms to the beef, pour on the sauce, cover and simmer slowly for 5 minutes to blend flavors, swirling casserole to baste meat and vegetables with sauce. The dish is now done.
Serve the boeuf bourguignon in its casserole, or arrange on a hot platter surrounded with boiled potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley. Accompany with hot French bread, buttered peas or a tossed salad, and the same red wine you used for the cooking.