Begin this recipe two days ahead to marinate the meat.
So much more than a fancy stew, this is a dish that's quintessentially French, writes Damien Pignolet.
Great red Burgundies have refined fruitiness and delicate but complex bouquets, so it's no wonder so many famous dishes in the French repertoire come from this province: jambon persillé, coq au vin, gougères, and not least of all beef Bourguignon or boeuf à la Bourguignonne.
Both red and white wines play a major role in Burgundian cuisine. It may be as simple as adding red wine to the pan after cooking a minute steak, reducing it with shallots and beef jus, then mounting it with butter and adding parsley for a quick sauce. Coq au vin, by contrast, is a more complex dish. Fortunately, boeuf à la Bourguignonne (or "Bourguignonne" as was the bistro title of old) is relatively simple but, like all things simple, the art is in the detail.
You need to start this gorgeous dish well ahead. It's worth making your own rich stock, which is reduced to a veal glace, or glaze.
Ask your butcher to saw a veal shank into sections and order meaty beef bones. Roast these, then make a stock with them along with onions, carrots, celery and a bouquet garni. Cook the stock for at least eight hours (up to 14 if practicable), then strain and skim off fat, and reduce it to 20 per cent of the original quantity. Any leftover stock may be frozen for another use.
Traditional recipes call for topside or even rump steak, both of which I consider give a rather dry result (early recipes require larding the meat, when a joint is used: making incisions and inserting lardons). Chuck steak is an excellent cut to use, as is gravy beef, which produces a rich sauce (hence the name). I love oyster blade since it's a single muscle, which translates to even cooking. Another helper is the built-in treasure of a gelatinous fibre of collagen running through its centre, which adds to the body of the sauce provided the cooking is slow enough to break it down. (Most cooks think this cut is only for braising but it makes a great steak if cooked medium rare, and a very succulent roast.)
Burgundians often use diced beef for this dish since it's essentially a stew. I used to dice this cut until it occurred to me to braise it in slices, allowing even cooking and attractive presentation. Cook the slices in one layer for even heat distribution and a succulent result.
The principal ingredients are simple: good aged beef, a few root vegetables, pork belly and a good Burgundy. While Australian pinot noir will make a fine Bourguignonne, try to use a French wine. I used a 2012 Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne, which compares favourably in price to a homeland pinot noir.
Note that the sauce may seem thin but, provided the flavour is rich, there's no need to reduce it. And take care to find tiny onions and mushrooms since they add so much to the presentation.
A great advantage of this recipe is that it may be cooked in advance, leaving the final garnish for the day you serve it. As to an accompaniment, I prefer little waxy potatoes such as kipflers or chats, rather than a potato purée - this will negate all the care taken to make a pure-tasting sauce. And, as with many French dishes, don't forget the parsley.
Boeuf à la Bourguignonne is the sort of dish we dream about as real French food. Savour it with a delicious Burgundy. Enjoy.