It makes me chuckle a little bit when a complaint of French cooking and restaurants is small portions with more of a concern for artful plating than feeding hungry people. In actuality, many standard recipes are incredibly rich and filling, from even just the bread basket with homemade butter to the lavish desserts. Classics like crocks of hot French onion soup with oozing caps of browned cheese, rustic one pot meals like coq au vin, and buttery, flaky tarts with baked fruit could all suffice for the largest appetite.
Beef (boeuf to all you Francophiles) Bourguignon is a staple among brasserie style menus and, while it’s recognition is now associated with fine dining, it’s a traditional French peasant dish. Recipes vary, no advanced cooking techniques are required and, overall, it’s near impossible to screw up. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying this version at Les Halles in New York, the restaurant that helped ignite Anthony Bourdain’s notoriety.
From Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook
2 beef chuck cubed, cut into 1 ½ pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
4 onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red Burgundy
6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic
1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf and 1 sprig of flat leaf parsley)
Chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish
Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the meat in batches and sear on all sides until it is well browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onions to the pot. Lower the heat to medium high until the onions are soft and golden brown (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle the flour over them. Continue to cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the red wine, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring the wine to a boil. Return the meat to the pot and add the carrots, garlic and bouquet garni. Add just enough water so that the liquid covers the meat by one-third. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and let cook uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. When finished, remove and discard the bouquet garni, add the chopped parsley to the pot, and serve.
Beef Bourguignon isn’t all that dissimilar to pot roast or beef stew. The cooking process is essentially the same, but the thing that sets this refined version apart is the addition of red wine. This stew flaunts an elegant, velvety flavor thanks to the Burgundy in which the meat tenderizes for 2 hours. Carrots and onions soften and flavor the broth along with the fresh herbs, which are just as pretty soaking in the pot as they are purposeful. Bourdain suggests checking on your stew every 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to ensure the contents aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. Additionally, skim foam, oil or scum from the surface of the dish with a spoon throughout the process. The meat and veggie stew on its own is enough to satisfy a big appetite, and most restaurants serve it with a side of rice or noodles. How’s that for small portions?