You totally should make this, because oh dear Lord, it is good. This is a dish that deserves every bit of its reputation. But it’s also a dish that you can only make when you have a spare five hours to hang around the kitchen making three separate recipes that will result in only one thing, since it turns out that boeuf bourguignon consists of not only the central beef stew, but also the oignons glaces a brun and champignons sautes au beurre that are added to it at the last minute. (Neither of which are particularly good recipes to share with my project partner, who is allergic to dairy. I didn’t really fully realize that I would also be making these other two dishes until I was already quite a ways in.) So anyway, make it on a day when you have plenty of time and feel like fiddling in the kitchen.
Also, make it when your mood is such that you won’t be alarmed when you labor for an hour only to end up with a big pot of beef covered in purple wine goo that you must now shove into the oven for three hours. The photos only document the pretty parts of making boeuf bourguignon, which means there are no photos of the pile of bloody beef, or the oil spattering everywhere as I browned it, or of it covered with flour and looking gummy. Or of the whole purple mess that went in the oven. You get to see the pretty little onions and mushrooms and the gorgeous pot of stew that came out.
I don’t cook French very often, usually because I’m concentrating on my Mexican project. But when I do, I’m always struck by how simple and punk most of the recipes are. Oh sure, there are 57 steps and a ton of butter. But really, French Onion Soup is this story: “It’s cold and I’m hungry and all I have is this bunch of onions I grew in the dirt, some old bread, a bottle of okay but not very good wine, a leftover bone, and a heel of cheese. What can I make with this that will be awesome?” Boeuf bourguignon is also this kind of bad-ass peasantry. All it is is a tough, cheap cut of meat, some root vegetables that were lying around, a bottle of wine that hasn’t had a chance to age properly, some fungus you got out of the woods and some milk you got out of the cow. (Or, okay, that you hauled home from the market.) And then you make something mind-blowing with it.
This is quite seriously one of the best things I have ever made, and I’ll definitely make it again. If you follow Julia’s impeccable recipe, there’s just about no way to screw it up. The only thing I changed was substituting salt pork for a 6 ounce chunk of bacon, since I couldn’t find the latter. It seemed to work just fine, and I’m also glad that I made the full recipe instead of cutting it in half. I’ll be delighted to eat this for a few days.
You can find PDFs of the recipes on the Knopf site.