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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

A post of beef stew with some crusty bread

Best French Food Dishes: Boeuf Bourguignon

Speak to anyone about the best French food dishes or the most well-known ones, and you’ll hear Boeuf Bourguignon. Or, as my Mum loves to say, beef stew. 

Somehow beef stew doesn’t sound as appetising as Boeuf Bourguignon, does it?

Anyway, after the success of my Coq au Vin Blanc, I’m continuing to work my way through my list of the most popular French dishes.

To get in the mood I decided to watch the movie Julie & Julia the night before. What a great movie, Meryl Streep is just fabulous as Julia Child.

I featured it in my Top 10 Best French Movies Set in France >>>

I debated whether to use Julia’s full recipe from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, which is legendary, as we know.

In the end, I decided against it as there were just so many steps. Instead, I went for a more simplified version, leaving out a few steps to make it a little less daunting, and it was just as yummy.

An old French house in the middle of a green field in Burgundy

Where did Boeuf Bourguignon come from?

Well, as you might have guessed, it originated from burgundy and was originally a peasant dish. 

It was a way to use up tough cuts of meat by popping them in a pot and leaving them to stew in their juices, along with some wine of course.

Often these big pots would simmer over a fire for a week or more. Different vegetables were thrown in along with other scraps, and the longer it stewed the better it tasted.

And don’t forget, drinking ale and wine, even for breakfast, was quite common years ago as the water was contaminated.

So putting in cooking wasn’t a stretch.

““I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes, I even put it in the food.”

Julia Child

The earliest version of the dish was from the 15th century known as ​​ “bouilli de bœuf à la bourguignonne”. 

But the first Boeuf Bourguignon recipe was first published in the 19th century by Auguste Escoffier.

Diced beef on a slate with carrots and mushrooms around it

What cut of meat is best for Boeuf Bourguignon?

Contrary to what you might think, the most expensive cut of meat is not the best for this dish.

In fact, I was informed by my French butcher that the cheaper cuts of meat are better for this dish. 

They don’t break down so fast and are better when being cooked for a long period of time.

In France, you can usually get Boeuf Bourguignon packs from one of the meat aisles. I usually go to the butcher and tell him what I’m making. That way I know I’m getting the best meat for the dish.

If in doubt, go for a cut such as chuck, which comes from the shoulder, as it has more fat, which is perfect for slow cooking. Brisket also works well.

Which is the best wine to use for Boeuf Bourguignon?

Traditionally, a good quality burgundy is used for this dish. I used a Pinot Noir which worked well but any full-bodied red can be used.

Just remember, to get a wine you enjoy drinking. The rule of thumb is that if you don’t enjoy drinking it, don’t cook with it. 

As Julia Child said, “As you get older, you shouldn’t waste time drinking bad wine.”

Take your time when cooking Boeuf Bourguignon

The key to a good Boeuf Bourguignon is time. Allow yourself time to make this dish, and definitely start the day before.

This dish is not one you make in a hurry, but once most of the ingredients are in the slow cooker, you can leave it to its own devices.

The Boeuf Bourguignon Marinade

As I said, the day before you want to eat this dish is the day you start. It all begins with the marinade.

If you don’t do this, you’ll have an overpowering taste of wine which isn’t great, so don’t miss this step out.

First things first pour the full bottle of wine into a large pot. Quarter two large onions, roughly chop two of the carrots into thirds, and put them into the pot.

Then add in two peeled & chopped garlic cloves and the bouquet garni. Bring it to the boil for around ten minutes and then set it aside to cool down.

If your meat isn’t already diced then cut it into 5cm cubes and add it to a dish.

Once the marinade has cooled down then pour it over the meat, cover it, and pop it into the fridge overnight. Preferably allowing at least 8 hours in there.

Serving Beef Bourguignon

This dish for me is comfort food on a cold winter’s evening. So it’s mashed potato all the way with a helping of green beans sauteed in butter on the griddle.

Trust me butter is the only way to go with this. If you aren’t a lover of green beans the butter makes them taste good.

“With enough butter, anything is good.” – Julia Child

Top Tip for cooking Beef Bourguignon

Saute both the mushrooms and pearl onions in butter and add right at the end just before serving.


 2kg of boneless braising beef. In France ask for Paleron

120g of unsmoked bacon lardons 

1 bottle of red wine (lCote du Rhone or Pinot Noir are my favs)

3 carrots (carottes)

4 medium size onions (oignons)

20 white Pearl onions (oignons grelots) or pickled onions

250g of mushrooms (champignons)

3 bay leafs (feuilles de laurier)

1 bouquet garni 

4 cloves of garlic (d’ail)

Olive oil (l’huile d’olive)

3 tablespoons of plain flour (farine)

450 ml of beef stock (bouillon de bœuf)

5 tbsp of butter (beurre)

salt, pepper (sel et poivre)

A dish of carrots, mushrooms, onions and bacon


Step 1 – first things first, remove the marinade from the fridge. With a slotted spoon remove all the meat and place onto paper towels. Pat the meat as dry as you can. Sieve the marinade juice and set aside the bouquet garni and bay leaves. Discard the carrots, garlic and onions so you’re left with just the wonderful wine juice. Then leave the meat to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Step 2 – put the oil into a large casserole dish and heat it. When it’s hot enough put 5 or 6 pieces of meat into the pan and sear them. Try to get them really crusty if you can. And remember, only add salt and pepper once they’re in the pan. If you add it before it draws the moisture out of the meat. Once all the meat is seared set it aside.

Step 3 – add the bacon to the pan and get it crispy then remove and set aside with the meat.

Step 4 – next add the carrots and chopped onion and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fry until just coloured. Return the meat and the bacon to the casserole and remember to scrape any crispy bits of the bottom of the dish. Springle on the flower and cook for 1 minutes, stirring. Add the wine marinade and the stock, pop in the bouquet garni and bay leaves and simmer ten minutes.

Step 5 – this is where I like to then transfer the whole thing into my slow cooker. I then leave it on low for 10 hours. And at this point, if I’m using pickling onions, I drain the onions and discard the vinegar. I leave them draining until I’m ready to use them.

Step 6 – 30 minutess before serving peel your potatoes and boil them till they’re ready to mash. Trim your green beans and add them to a skillet with some butter ready to cook about 5 minutes before serving.

Step 7 – 20 minutes or so before you’re ready to serve put half the butter into a frying pan. Add the pickling onions, cover, and cook until softened. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Heat the remaining butter and add the mushroom. Try and keep the mushrooms whole if using button mushrooms. And remember, as Julia said, don’t crowd the mushrooms otherwise they won’t brown. Once done set aside and keep warm.

Step 8 – strain the liquid from your slow cooker through a sieve and into a clean saucepan. Discard the bouquet garni and bay leaves and add the mushrooms and onions to the meat. Simmer the liquid for 1-2 minutes or until it’s reduced. Heat your green beans and cook till ready.

Step 9 – warm your plates and serve the meat. Add the mashed potatoes and pour the liquid gravy over the meat. Add the green beans and serve. For an extra flourish add som parsley to garnish.

Don’t forget to check out all my other recipes >>>

Bon appétit et merci beaucoup!

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