Boeuf: It’s what’s for dinner

Boy, the fact that beef bourguignon was the recipe Julia Child cooked ON THE VERY FIRST EPISODE of her show might have been a nice thing to include in yesterday’s Tribune column. Ah bon! Julia’s version, along with a nice Good Morning America segment, here. Column after the jump.

Update: IMDb has boef bourguignon being covered in episode two, after episode one’s French omelet. Controversy!

After three flights spanning 30 hours and more than 9,000 miles — not to mention a 70-degree temperature swing — anybody would be in the mood for some comfort food. Really, anything not prepackaged and designed more for a seat-back tray table than culinary enjoyment would do. We were facing mountains of laundry, a kitchen remodel project in midstream and a serious Christmas shopping crisis. We had no tree, we had no plan, and it was snowing. When it came to dinner, at least, we needed Julia Child.

I remember requesting her “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” for Christmas almost 10 years ago. I’d become interested in food and cooking at the tail end of college, and after a couple of years in the real world — if Washington, D.C., qualifies — I was looking for something to up my game. Thankfully, one generous gift-giver stepped up to the plate; Child’s fleur-de-lis-bedecked classic soon arrived in the mail.

It had its intimidating portions, of course. Child’s recipe for “real French bread — the long, crunchy, yeasty, golden loaf that is like no other bread in texture and flavor” — famously runs 22 pages in “Mastering, Volume II.” But Julia’s message was always, “You can do this.” And beginning with the book’s first publication in 1961, millions of American home cooks did.

I picked a recipe for a beef stew with red wine, bacon, onions and mushrooms: “Boeuf Bourguignon.” It was simple enough, reportedly would get better the next day and perhaps best of all, meant at least one glass of good Cotes du Rhone or cabernet sauvignon would be left over.

Julia’s version — with tiny white onions and sautéed mushrooms—is even better than the somewhat stripped down version below. But this is what we make Sunday nights when jet lag and 3 or 4 inches of white stuff on the ground outside call for comfort food. Serve with buttered noodles or boiled potatoes. If you really want to gild the fleur-de-lis, serve over creamy risotto.


6 ounces bacon, sliced

1 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds rump pot roast or top round, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 sliced carrot

1 sliced onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 cups good medium to full-bodied red wine

2 to 3 cups beef stock

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 bay leaf, crumbled

Sauté the bacon in oil until just crisp; remove. Pour off all but one tablespoon of bacon grease, saving extra for use later, if needed.

Over medium to medium-high heat, add olive oil and beef, browning in batches — do not crowd the pan. When meat is crisping around edges, about three or four minutes, stir and cook one minute more.

Remove meat to side plate and add vegetables (with salt and pepper), cooking until tender, about eight minutes.

Brown the tomato paste briefly, then deglaze with wine and add beef stock, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.

Cook for two to three hours, until meat is tender. Return bacon to pot and, if there’s wine left, splash a little just before serving.

 Scott Rowson lives and eats in Columbia and writes about it at Reach him at


Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

4 thoughts

  1. Oh yeah!

    We made this last night with frozen beef cubes. Since we dine for 2, I buy a chuck or similar, make a small roast, and cut the rest into stew meat. It’s been a long time since we had boeuf bourguignon, and it was grand. Making it for 2 takes far less time, since it involves a skimpy pound of meat. I refuse to sacrifice that much red wine to the pot, as opposed to our gullets, so we use leftover homemade turkey stock, and whatever wine we might have open. Luscious! We are having the leftovers tonight over noodles. The tomato (in the recipe) adds so much richness.

    Thanks for reminding me that this delight can be made without too much ado.

  2. It’s a good, simple recipe, with none of that onion-and-mushroom bother in Julia’s version.

    That said, I have been searching for a recipe for a beef stew finished with chocolate to try to duplicate the one we had in France last fall. Any ideas???

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