Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe, simplified

By 10 m read
Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

The words Julia Child and beef bourguignon put a big smile on my face. Julia Child was and still is – in my eyes – the best TV personality of all time. Followed by Bob Ross, of course.

 

And beef bourguignon evokes the culinary senses with a tingling of anticipation of a memorable meal, shared with friends and a good bottle of red wine. 

 

Julia Child is quoted as saying that beef bourguignon is “certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” 

 

So how can we bring two top-tier joys of life into our home and make it ours? It’s not that hard. We might not reach the zenith of Julia Child’s beef bourguignon, but we can get pretty close to the peak.  

 

This dish is very forgiving and just seems to turn out absolutely fantastic every time. Don’t be intimidated. After making it the first time, watch the movie Julia and Julia and feel like a French chef.

And when you think about making this dish, think about my favorite quote from Julia Child:

 

“I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food…”

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Beef Stew versus Beef Bourguignon

What’s the difference? Mostly the red wine. I like using a dry red wine and Pinot noir works nicely. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are two other good options. 

 

What beef cuts should you use?

Any stew cuts of beef. My go-to is chuck roast from the shoulder. I like a 2” thick slab that I cube into even 1” pieces. Here’s your first cooking hint: the smaller the pieces, the shorter the cooking time. 

 

Stovetop versus oven

That’s up to you. Cooking on the stovetop gives you more control and lets you taste the progress more easily. You can also crank up the heat toward the end and remove the lid if you want to thicken up the sauce a bit. The oven is probably used more often. The nice thing about making this dish in the oven is that it leaves you space on the stove to work on the mushrooms and side dishes. But it takes considerably longer to finish. 

 

Note: Slow cooking on the stovetop requires occasional stirring. Think of the heat source. On the stove, it’s under the pot. In the oven, the heat is evenly distributed around the pot, which eliminates the need for stirring regularly. 

 

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon Recipe, simplified

If you want to get the full Julia Child beef bourguignon experience, please follow her instructions from “The Joy of Cooking” or enjoy this absolutely delightful black & white video from 1963:

You’ll see that she has considerably more steps than in my version. It also takes considerably more time to make it her way. I tried to simplify some of the steps without skipping on flavor. The one step you can’t simplify, though, is the mushrooms. If you make them in a Dutch oven and cook with all the other ingredients, the mushrooms won’t be recognizable in the dish anymore, visually or taste-wise. Making the mushrooms separately at the end (in butter and garlic) is a must. 

 

Taste, taste, taste

You know that’s my mantra, but with this dish, a word of caution: It takes a long time for the wine to do its magic with this stew. If you start tasting halfway through the recommended cooking time, you’ll find that it tastes very strongly of wine and light on salt. This is normal. Don’t do anything. Wait. Patiently. Seriously.

 

Taste before adding the mushrooms and taste again before serving. You won’t be able to change the harmony of flavors at this point, but you can surely perfect your dish by adding some more kosher salt if necessary. 

 

Another magic aspect about this dish’s flavor profile: It tastes better the next day. Why? I don’t know. Lasagne works the same way. So make sure to make a lot. I just leave the leftovers (if that actually happens) in the Dutch oven, in the fridge, for up to two days and reheat over low heat, maybe adding some more stock or water if it gets too dry. 

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Mise en place (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Mise en place

It’s a French recipe so let’s stay fancy with the words. Mise en place (have every ingredient cleaned, cut, measured, and ready) before starting this dish is a big help. It also frees up time to sip some wine while sautéing.

 

Pat the beef dry and cut into 1” cubes. Season with 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, and set aside. 

 

Pat the bacon dry and cut into 1” squares. To do that, take 6 oz of bacon strips out of the packet (you know how they’re staggered). Cut perpendicular 1″ pieces. 

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Next, using a sharp knife, stand the layers of 1” pieces on their side and cut diagonally all at once.

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Bacon strips are just about 2” wide. You’ll end up with perfect 1” square bacon pieces.

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Peel and cut the carrots into 1” pieces. Roughly chop the onions. Depending on size, quarter, half, or leave the mushrooms whole. Your goal is to have all your veggies chopped about the same size. 

 

Peel the pearl onions. Mince the garlic. Chop the parsley and strip the thyme leaves from the stems, if using fresh thyme. Have the bay leaves ready. 

 

Prepare 2 cups of beef stock (I use a Knorr bouillon cube) and make sure to leave 2 cups of red wine in the bottle you’re sipping from. 

 

Finally, have some kosher salt, a black pepper mill, tomato paste, flour, 2 Tbsp butter, and 1 Tbsp vegetable oil ready. 

 

With everything in place (mise en place), let the cooking begin. 

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Let’s start cooking

It’s time to bring out the Dutch oven. If you don’t own one, get one. I recently developed a recipe for Red Wine Braised Short Ribs using our Uno Casa Dutch oven, and we’re still in love with it. 

 

Because there are more steps involved in this dish than in most of my other recipes, I’m trying to write them down as logical, easy to understand, and therefore a little more boring than usual:

 

Heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat.

 

Add the bacon (it should sizzle). Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. 

 

Add beef cubes (make sure they sizzle when touching the oil) and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan. If they touch, they’ll steam. Brown in batches if necessary, 5 minutes each, of course. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside (I just put mine in the same bowl with the bacon so they can start getting to know each other to build a flavor bond).

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Take a sip of red wine. Don’t forget, you’re cooking with wine and soon you’ll put some into the food.

 

Add carrots and onion (or shallots) and stir for about 3 minutes. Season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper.

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Add the cooked bacon and browned beef cubes, add 2 Tbsp flour, give it a really good stir, and cook for 2 minutes. 

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Add 2 cups red wine, 2 cups beef stock, 2 Tbsp tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, and pearl onions. Bring to a boil. Stir and reduce to a simmer. Now, it’s time to put the lid on. 

 

Stir every 15 minutes or so to make sure you’ve got a good simmer going and nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. 

 

After about 1-1/2 hours, it should be ready, or close to it. Now is a good time to taste. Don’t sweat it if it still seems a little strong on the wine taste. It’ll mellow. But make sure it doesn’t need any more kosher salt. My favorite way to find out if a sauce needs more salt is a trick I learned in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, which goes something like this:

 

Put a little bit of sauce on a spoon and taste it. Again, put a little bit of sauce on the spoon. But this time, add a tiny sprinkle of salt. Is it tastier this time? No? Serve. Yes? Add some salt to the pan and try again. Repeat as necessary. From now on, your soups, stews, and sauces will always be perfectly salted. Thank you, Samin!

 

Sautéing the mushrooms

Now that the beef bourguignon is almost ready, we’re going to sauté the mushrooms. In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter until it slightly bubbles and foams. Add minced garlic for just 30 seconds (you want them fragrant but not burned) and add the mushrooms. Stir, add a little olive oil (or more butter) if you think the mushrooms are too dry). Season with a pinch of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

The finishing touches

Add the sautéed mushroom-garlic-butter mixture to the Dutch oven and give it one more last stir.

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Serve over your favorite side dish. In my case, that’s buttered extra-wide egg noodles.

 

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and pour everyone a nice glass of red wine. We paired it with an excellent petit Shiraz, which complemented the fantastic beef bourguignon perfectly. 

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Looking for more delicious dinner ideas? Check out a few more of our recipes now:

 

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Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe, simplified

Julia Child's beef bourguignon puts a smile on my face. Beef bourguignon is very forgiving and turns out absolutely fantastic every time. Don’t be intimidated.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 45 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 2-1/2 lbs beef chuck shoulder, cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 6 oz bacon, cut into 1" squares (1-1/2 c)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 c carrots, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1-1/2 c yellow onions or shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 c dry red wine like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 c beef stock or bouillon
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or a couple fresh sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • 10 pearl onions (optional, but nice addition)

Mushrooms

  • 10 oz cremini (button) mushrooms, quartered or halved, depending on size
  • 2 Tbsp butter (or more as necessary)
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Additional Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 lb egg noodles

Instructions
 

  • Heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat.
  • Add the bacon (it should sizzle). Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. 
  • Add beef cubes (make sure they sizzle when touching the oil) and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Add carrots and onion (or shallots) and stir for about 3 minutes. Season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Add the cooked bacon and browned beef cubes, add 2 Tbsp flour, give it a really good stir, and cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Add 2 cups red wine, 2 cups beef stock, 2 Tbsp tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, and pearl onions. Bring to a boil. Stir and reduce to a simmer. Now, it’s time to put the lid on. 
  • Stir every 15 minutes or so to make sure you’ve got a good simmer going and nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. 
  • After about 1-1/2 hours, it should be ready, or close to it. Now is a good time to taste. Don’t sweat it if it still seems a little strong on the wine taste. It’ll mellow. But make sure it doesn’t need any more kosher salt. 
  • Now that the beef bourguignon is almost ready, we’re going to sauté the mushrooms. In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter until it slightly bubbles and foams. 
  • Add minced garlic for just 30 seconds (you want them fragrant but not burned) and add the mushrooms. 
  • Stir, add a little olive oil (or more butter) if you think the mushrooms are too dry). Season with a pinch of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the sautéed mushroom-garlic-butter mixture to the Dutch oven and give it one more last stir.
  • Serve over your favorite side dish. In my case, that’s buttered extra-wide egg noodles.
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley and pour everyone a nice glass of red wine. 

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