Beef Bourguignon: Attainability

 The tastiest beef stew! Recipe from


Life is full of unattainable things. But I think sometimes I assume too quickly that I am unable to achieve. I am scared of failure and therefore I am quick to jump into my safe place and say to myself “Why, don’t do that! It will never work.” In  Finding Nemo when Marlin, the overprotective dad clown fish yells in frustration at his son “You think you can do these things, but you can’t, Nemo!” Sometimes I need to remind my brain to stop being so Marlin and embrace the Dory. Try and speak whale once in a while.

And so I am surprised by how attainable so many things in life are.


I never really tried to make Beef Bourguignon before. It is that unattainable recipe, the crowning prize of Julia Child’s multitude of culinary gifts. It requires an entire day, undivided attention, dedication to detail, and yet a certain amount of c’est  la vie. Truth be told, I was terrified of Beef Bourguignon. What if I put all that time, energy, money, thought, emotion into this stew and it ends up tasting like a pretty ho hum stew I could throw together in an hour? I mean, stew is stew. It’s warm, it’s tasty, it’s simple. Better stick with what you know, Marlin.


But Ho! This stew is the stew of all stews! It could possibly be the best thing a spoon has ever put in my mouth. I was frightened of that stew for 6 hours as I made it. But as soon as we nestled down with a loaf of French bread and  bowls of Beef Bourguignon in our hands I was suddenly scared of a new thing. I was scared of missing out on beautiful things. What if I had never made this because I was intimidated by a little failure?  I could have missed out on the best beefy delicious thick hearty deep warm goodness ever.


So let me encourage any others who are also intimidated by Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. It is difficult. It takes a long time. You’ll do things that don’t make sense at first. But really, just pick a day, put on your courage pants and jump into a little uncertainty. You could end up with the dinner of your life.


Plus: Bonus points! I’ve whittled down this recipe just enough. It isn’t quite as labor or time intensive as the original. It cuts a few corners, saves a bit of time, and it adds carrots which I personally think are necessary in order to label anything a “stew.” All in all it’s a tiny bit less scary than Julia’s, I think. Just in case your courage pants are in the laundry.




Beef Bourguignon
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 6 ounces bacon, diced
  • 2 lbs lean stew meat, cut into cubes
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced or diced
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups full bodied red wine
  • 2 cup beef stock
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • ½ lb fresh white mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ lb carrots, peeled and sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. In a small skillet or non stick frying pan cook bacon in a little water until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  2. Pat the beef cubes dry with paper towels and season all over with salt and pepper. In a large gallon sized sealable plastic bag place the beef and flour and shake to coat meat.
  3. In a wide heavy soup pot heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of butter over moderate heat. Brown the beef cubes well on all sides in batches. Avoid crowding the pot. Transfer meat to a bowl. Pour ½ c. of wine in the pot and deglaze over medium heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits. Pour over beef.
  4. Heat 1 Tablespoon butter in the pot over high heat and then sauté onions, garlic, and carrots until onions are transparent and golden. Add tomato paste and tomato to pot, and cook 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Add remaining wine, beef stock, meat, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer gently, partially covered until the meat is tender. This takes about 4 hours. You’ll be tempted to take it off before because it smells so good, but don’t! 😉
  6. In a skillet heat 1 Tablespoon of butter over moderate heat and then sauté mushrooms until golden brown, soft and any liquid from the mushrooms is cooked off. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Stir the mushrooms into the stew and cook 10 more minutes. Remove bay leaf from the stew and skim any extra fat off of the top. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot with fresh bread.

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