If you love beef stews, you will love this French classic, boeuf bourguignon. With the weather in Zurich being its typical and formidable grey in April, beef stew has been on the menu a few times in recent weeks, but having cooked my way partly through Rachel Khoo’s wonderful new cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen, I was drawn to her recipe for boeuf bourguignon because of her pairing with baguette dumplings. I instantly loved the sound of these dumplings and was curious to see if they could provide a fresh change to this classic dish which is so often served just with boiled or mashed potatoes.
The ingredients for boeuf bourguignon are nothing too different to your usual beef stew. The dish is thought to have its origin in the Burgundy region of France but each region has its own version of this classic dish, using its local red wine. As red wine is the predominant flavour in this dish, it would be wise to use a good-quality wine, one which isn’t necessarily expensive, nor a Burgundy (unless you need to impress). I often make this dish with a Pinot Noir or a Côtes-du-Rhône, nothing too expensive but good enough to also drink with the meal later. If you’re not prepared to drink the wine, don’t invest 3 hours cooking with it.
The baby onions are a must in this dish, as are the mushrooms, as a way of introducing vegetables in what is otherwise a meat-heavy dish. So despite the tedium of peeling a dozen baby onions, you will be thankful later when everyone is trying to fish about for something to eat alongside a large chunk of meat.
And the dumplings themselves cannot be simpler to make. The idea for the dumplings came about as a way to use up leftover stale baguettes. Although Rachel stipulates 200 g of stale baguette, this equates to a whole baguette in my neck of the woods. So I set about buying an extra baguette to leave for a few days to become stale. Tough task given that we go through bread pretty quickly in our home, and a guilt-ridden task given that hubby went without breakfast one morning upon realising that this entire baguette loaf had been reserved for dinner that night. But it was all for a good cause …
As you can see from the photos, the baguette I used is pretty thin and crusty. It is important that the bread is stale for this recipe so that it can soak up all of the milk but not go mushy. Trust me – I made these dumplings again a few nights later with somewhat fresh bread and the result was very sticky and messy. That said, once the dumplings were cooked, they still tasted delicious.
The star of this recipe is definitely the baguette dumplings. I’m not sure I’ve tried anything like it before and so it’s difficult to describe how they taste. Think savoury fried eggy bread. They were absolutely delicious on their own and were the perfect accompaniment to the boeuf bourguignon, both in taste and as a way to mop up some of that lovely sauce. The recipe states that it serves 4 to 6 but my husband and I finished the entire serving of baguette dumplings between ourselves! Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted to that here …
I can’t wait to make these baguette dumplings again and think they would be great alongside other stews as an alternative to, or alongside, boiled potatoes.
But this meal was not all about the baguette dumplings … the boeuf bourguignon was also excellent. I’ve made this dish many times in the past and Rachel’s recipe is not too dissimilar from others which I have tried. I know Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver have been promoting as of late that you do not need to brown the meat, that this step makes no difference to the end result. I beg to differ. I think browning the meat and letting it caramelise is an important step in order to add depth and flavour to the sauce.
But one thing which has often stressed me out is flouring the meat before I brown it. By the second or third batch of meat, I often find that the flour is beginning to burn and the pan is starting to smoke like crazy. So now I don’t flour the meat at all before I brown it, but that once I return all of the meat to the pan, I then sprinkle over the flour and let it cook away for a minute or two. Much less stressful and you won’t have burnt bits in your stew later.
All in all, another successful recipe from The Little Paris Kitchen, and perhaps my favourite recipe so far from this book. Stay tuned for more recipe reviews from this wonderful book