Does boeuf bourguignon have to be made with a wine from its namesake region, Burgundy? It’s traditional, yes, but it doesn’t have to be.
It’s no accident that Fiona Beckett, the British food writer, recommends a red from France’s Languedoc or Rhone. She wants a more full-bodied wine in her recipe.
Nor does the wine in the pot need to be the same as what’s poured in the glass. Wine can lend a great deal of flavor to cooking, but long cooking destroys a fine wine’s nuances and layers of complexity.
“Burgundy isn’t the only wine that pairs with beef Burgundy, and it isn’t even necessarily the best match,” added Natalie MacLean, the Canadian wine writer who offers a wine-food matching tool on her Web site, nataliemaclean.com. “I pair the dish with a wide variety of red wines, including Barolo, Bordeaux, New World cabernet sauvignon, Chianti, Cotes-du-Rhone, merlot, syrah and zinfandel. I also match it with full-bodied whites, such as chardonnay and gewurztraminer.”
Mark L. Esterman, the Michigan-based wine buyer for Meijer stores, uses whatever red is left over from the night before, so he’ll usually go with a cabernet sauvignon or a Bordeaux from Saint Emilion. If he must buy a wine for cooking, he uses “a good wine — just not an expensive wine.”
Efrain Madrigal, wine buyer for Sam’s Wines & Spirits, thinks big cabs, Bordeaux and Barolo belong in the decanter, not the pan. He looks for red wine with abundant cherry-plum flavors, fresh acidity and even a little earthiness.
“Lately my go-to cooking red has been the 2006 Casa de la Vega Garnacha from La Mancha, Spain,” he said. “It is absolutely marvelous as a cooking wine: vinous, fresh, savory and, of course, it is a dynamite companion when served with the dish it was used in.”
Alixe Lischett of Cabernet & Company in Glen Ellyn prefers a Burgundian wine or American pinot noir. She stays away from cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel or heavy syrahs because they might flavor the stew too much.
Another thing about not using a Burgundy, said Sterling Pratt of Schaefer’s in Skokie, is coming up with alternative names for the dish.
“Alliteration may be important here,” he quipped.
Pratt has a point. While “sirloin shiraz” and “steak sangiovese” could work, boeuf bourguignon just rolls off the tongue … well, for the French anyway. Here’s how to pronounce it: “Beuf boor-gee-NYON.”
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Chilling time: 12 hours
Yield: 6 servings
Fiona Beckett prefers to use a fuller-bodied red wine from the Rhone or Languedoc instead of Burgundy in this recipe adapted from “Food, Wine & Friends.” Pancetta, an Italian bacon, is sold in specialty markets and some supermarkets; you can substitute regular bacon.
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 1/2 ounces pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 pounds beef chuck, fat trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups red wine, plus extra if needed
Bouquet garni of thyme sprigs, parsley stalks and 1 bay leaf
2 tablespoon butter
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a Dutch oven. Add the beef to the skillet, in batches if necessary; cook, turning, until brown on all sides, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the Dutch oven.
2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil in the skillet. Lower heat to medium; add the onions. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to caramelize, about 15 minutes.
3. Stir in flour; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in the wine. Raise the heat to medium-high; heat to a boil. Pour the onion mixture over the meat in the Dutch oven; add the bouquet garni. Heat to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer; cook until meat is just tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate 12 hours.
4. Return the stew to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Heat to a boil over medium-high heat; lower heat to a simmer.
5. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir the mushrooms into the stew; cook until flavors come together, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more wine for a pronounced wine flavor, if you like. Sprinkle with parsley.
Nutrition information per serving:
462 calories, 63% of calories from fat, 32 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 111 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 32 g protein, 310 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
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Ranging far from Burgundy
The only Burgundy wine in this informal blind tasting came in dead last in scoring, both on its own and when paired with a beef stew made in the style of bourguignon. The wine was just too austere. Ratings below reflect how well the wine worked with the beef stew.
2006 Dona Paula Estate Malbec
A steal at $13, this deep purple beauty smelled of dark berries and earth and coated the palate seductively. Berry fruitiness was sparked with black pepper and balanced with tannins. The stew enhanced the wine’s flavor, accenting the layers of spice.
(3 corkscrews) $13
2005 Martin Codax Ergo Rioja
This tempranillo-based red from Spain had a jammy berry flavor reined in by plenty of acidity and tannins. Short, bright finish. The stew gave the wine more complexity, toning down the berry and bringing up earthy notes.
(3 corkscrews) 13
2004 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon
Tasters liked this Aussie a lot on its own and with the stew; their scores barely budged. Most felt the stew brought out the fruitiness in an otherwise lean but powerful wine. Some, however, thought the wine was overwhelmed by the meat.
(3 corkscrews) $20
2005 Bogle Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
With its light color and earthy nose, this California red seemed oh-so-Burgundian. Cherry and berry flavors were augmented by notes of earth and black pepper. The wine’s score dipped slightly when paired with the meat.
(2 corkscrews) $15
2002 Chateau Perron Lalande de Pomerol
A Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, this wine was terrific on its own with good mouthfeel, assertive barnyard aroma, and notes of earth, stone and black pepper overlaying the fruit. The stew overwhelmed the wine, muting its force.
(2 corkscrews) $22
2005 Rene Lequin-Colin Bourgogne
Au courant with its screw cap and its varietal (pinot noir) labeling, this Burgundian red did not impress panelists very much. Most found it thin and sharp, but one taster thought that’s what a rich, hearty stew needed for balance.
(2 corkscrews) $22
This story also appeared in the Orlando Sentinel.