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Boeuf Borguignon is THE quintessential beef stew.  And Julia Child’s is the best.  I’ve been making a version of this for decades and it’s never failed me.  Don’t let the list of ingredients spook you.  The Goddess has changed a few things, and nothing seems to have suffered for it.  I’m making this in the Instant-Pot, but you can absolutely cook it on top of the stove, in the oven or in a slow-cooker.  I like the Instant-Pot for this, as I can pretty much do the whole thing, browning the meat and vegetables, deglazing the pan and cooking and finishing the whole thing in the “one” pot, and it works well.  However, I prefer to sauté the mushrooms in a cast iron skillet, but that isn’t necessary.  I use both the slow-cooker setting AND the pressure cooker.

Season the meat with salt; set aside.  To properly brown the meat, make certain not to crowd the meat cubes.  If you do, they will steam, rather than brown.  They’ll still taste okay, but not as delicious or complex a flavor, if you brown them properly.

A couple of changes—

  • Julia blanched the bacon.  The Goddess does not.  Keep in mind, Julia (yes, she and I are on a first name basis) used slab bacon.  I use sliced bacon and that makes all the difference.
  • I add a bit of ketchup!  Yeah, don’t get your apron in a bunch…Julia loved ketchup.  And ketchup has tomato, spices and just a bit of acid, which works here.  We’re not adding much, but I swear, this is better with it, than without it.  I usually save an almost empty bottle, then add some of the wine, give it a good shake to clean it out.  Works like a charm!



  • I see absolutely no reason to wash all that good fond out and pour it down the drain, as the original recipe suggests.  I deglaze with the brandy; don’t omit the brandy.  It makes a better boeuf!  After I’ve sautéed the meat, I remove the chunks and set them aside.  Then, I sauté the carrots and unthawed pearl onions briefly, in the pan; set them aside, to add later in the game.  And you can absolutely sauté the mushrooms, too.

Though, I prefer to sauté them in my handy, dandy cast iron skillet.

  • I add whole roasted garlic cloves.  Like about a handful!  But, I grate fresh garlic into the mushrooms, when I finish sautéing them.  I like that little extra hit of garlic, but if you prefer a more mellow garlic, add the grated garlic with the meat or omit it completely…(Seriously?  Why?)

I swear (you now that I do!!) this is better the second day.  It’s the perfect dinner party dish, for that reason alone.  But, it’s spectacularly delicious, too.  Use a decent wine.  I use a cabernet or a merlot.  And if I have a little leftover wine, (really?) that’s just a little past its prime, that extra acid is welcome.  It makes the flavor pop.  And that’s good.  I’ll use no more than 1/2 cup of slightly-past-its-prime red wine, as part of the total amount of wine.

If gluten is an issue, use a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry to thicken it.  And, thickening the “gravy” is up to you.  It isn’t essential.

Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon, Almost!

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Not, but It Takes Time
  • Print

  • 5 slices bacon, cut into 1/3-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional-you may not need it)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (you’ll probably need more)
  • 3 1/2-4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 18-24 pearl onions, frozen and unthawed
  • 3 tablespoons brandy (don’t omit this; it makes a difference)
  • 2 cups red wine (a full bodied wine such as Zinfandel or Burgundy)
  • 2 cups beef stock (I prefer a lower-sodium version)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup (take a breath and see NOTE)
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 12 roasted garlic cloves, (you can buy them from the olive bar in supermarkets)
  • Small pinch ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • For the Mushrooms:
  • 1 lb mushroom, quartered (I use a mixture of mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated

Set the Instant-Pot to “SAUTÉ”.  Cook the bacon, stirring frequently and keeping an eye on it, so as not to burn it, until it is crispy, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon, set aside to drain.

Pat beef dry; sprinkle generously with salt.  If there isn’t enough fat, about 2 tablespoons, add the additional oil.  Then, add beef chunks to the pot; do not crowd or the meat will steam and not brown.  Brown beef well on at least 2 sides; you’ll need to do this in batches.  Transfer to a bowl.

Add the carrot slices to the insert; sauté on HIGH, for at least 2 minutes.  Add the pearl onions, and continue to cook until the veggies all brown a bit, about 4-5 minutes total.  Remove to a separate dish; set aside.

There probably won’t be any really excess oil, but remove it if there is.  Deglaze the pan with the brandy.  Add the ketchup and tomato paste; stirring with a wooden spoon.  Put the bacon and beef back in the insert.  Sprinkle the ground cloves over the beef and add the roasted garlic cloves; pour the wine and broth over the beef.  Give it a good stir; push the bay leaves and thyme leaves down in the liquid. Choose the “Slow-Cooker” setting on NORMAL.  Set for 2 1/2 minutes and turn the vent to “CLOSED”.

For the Mushrooms:  In a cast iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat until foam subsides; add the mushrooms.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until they brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper; add the grated garlic and stir.  Remove from the heat source; set aside for later.

Stir carrots, onions and mushrooms into stew.  Switch the setting to “MANUAL”; set the pressure to “LOW” and cook for 10 minutes.   Let the pressure some down naturally, about 10 minutes or so.  Taste and season with black pepper and additional salt, if needed.   Let stand for at least 20 minutes, before serving.  Excellent with simple mashed potatoes.

NOTE:  The ketchup never, ever appeared in Julia’s recipe.  However, it adds tomato, a bit of sweet and a bit of spice that works.  Julia loved ketchup and I would like to think she would approve of this addition.

If you are cooking this on top of the stove, you will gently simmer the meat/wine mixture, partially covered, until meat is tender, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  At the 3 hour mark, add the carrot, pearl onions and mushrooms.  You may thicken with an arrowroot slurry, as well, if desired.

Heavily adapted from “The Art of French Cooking”.