Monday, December 8, 2008

Beef Bourguignon, Part II

As a follow up to the recipe posted above, I have a few observations to pass along. I've learned there are two keys for a good Beef Bourguignon.

The first key is the meat you choose. Do not — repeat, do not — buy what grocery meat sections label as “stew meat” or “beef stew.” Most of these pre-sliced pieces are scraps leftover from a variety of other cuts of beef. You never know exactly what you’re getting. If you look closely at “stew meat,” what you see is uniformly red — almost none of the beef is marbled. That may be good for reducing fat, but it’s a disaster for a long-cooking dish like Beef Bourguignon in which the fat within the meat bathes it and keeps it from drying out.

(Trust me: I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.) So go with beef cuts like chuck roast or sirloin that are slightly marbled. You’ll be glad you did.

The second key is the cooking temperature. Resist the temptation to “hurry up” your meal by raising the oven temp. Although the dutch oven is covered and even though the beef itself is covered in a broth-wine mixture, you don’t want the ingredients inside the dutch oven to reach a hard boil.

Remember: You’re trying to braise the beef, not boil it. Even good cuts of beef can dry out if they are cooked at an excessively high temp.

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