Slow-Cooker Beef Burgundy

This is one of the more elaborate slow-cooker meals we’ve tried from the book “Slow Cooker Revolution” — the recipe involves a lot more prep work than the typical set-it-and-forget-it crock pot meal — but it’s well worth the time and effort.  Beef burgundy (also called “beef bourguignon”) is a stew that originated in the Burgundy region of France (hence the name.)  Its claim to fame is beef chuck roast (or similar cut of beef that lends itself well to braising) cooked slowly for hours in a red wine broth, then finished with a decadent sauce made with more red wine, mushrooms and pearl onions.  Cooking a little bacon to provide the fat for sautéing the carrots and onions and toasting the aromatics (garlic, tomato paste and thyme) makes for a hearty and flavorful base of the stew, even before adding all the wine and beef.  Although beef burgundy tastes similar to “company pot roast,” we found it to be more sophisticated (and even more worthy of company) with the rich sauce, earthy mushrooms and delicate, braised pearl onions.  Both dishes are comfort food at its best, but we like to think of pot roast along the lines of a comfy jeans or sweatpants casual family dinner, while beef burgundy is more like the dressed up, serve with china and crystal for the fancy guests kind of a meal.


Prepping the ingredients at the beginning of the cooking process makes the pre-slow-cooker steps go a little faster and easier.  Chop a carrot and a large onion.  Mince 3 cloves of garlic and measure out 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or about a teaspoon chopped fresh thyme) and 2 tablespoons tomato paste.


Chop up 2-3 slices of bacon.  If you put the bacon in the freezer for about 15 minutes prior to chopping it, it’s a lot easier to cut into small pieces.


Trim the beef of big pieces of fat (we used a chuck roast that was about 2 1/2 pounds), and cut it into about 2 inch chunks.  Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season it with salt and pepper.


Heat about a tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil in a large skillet, then brown the beef on all sides.  Transfer the browned beef to the slow-cooker.


Cook the bacon in the same skillet until crisp and the fat is rendered — about 5-6 minutes.


Add the onion and carrot to the skillet with a dash of salt and cook until the veggies soften and begin to brown — about 8-10 minutes.


Add the garlic, thyme and tomato paste and cook until fragrant — about 1-2 minutes.


Add about 2-3 tablespoons of flour and cook for another minute.


Slowly add about a cup of red wine (most recipes call for Pinot Noir, but you could also use a burgundy wine if you’re feeling all authentic), scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet and smoothing out any lumps.


Add the red wine broth to the slow-cooker, then add 3 tablespoons soy sauce and a bay leaf (torn in half.)  Cover the crock pot and cook on the low setting for 9-11 hours (5-7 hours on high.) Begin the next steps involving the onions and mushrooms about 20-30 minutes before you plan to serve dinner.


The original recipe calls for 1 cup of frozen pearl onions.  We couldn’t find any frozen onions at our grocery store, so we used fresh pearl onions instead.  After doing some research, we discovered that one benefit to using the frozen variety is that the onions are already peeled.  If using frozen onions, the recipe calls for simmering them in a covered pot with 1/4 cup water, a tablespoon and a half of butter and a teaspoon of sugar until the onions are thawed and tender — about 5-8 minutes.  Then uncover the pot and cook until the liquid evaporates — about 3-4 minutes.  If using frozen pearl onions, skip ahead to the sautéing with mushrooms step.  For our fresh pearl onions, we followed this recipe for peeling and braising them.  Start by blanching the onions in boiling water for about a minute.


Rinse the onions in cold water.


Then cut off the ends and peel back the skins.


Heat about a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet, add the onions and saute until lightly browned.


Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and bring the liquid to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the liquid reduces and the onions are tender — about 15-20 minutes.


Add the mushrooms to the skillet with the onions and cook until the mushrooms soften and the onions become browned and glazed — about 8-12 minutes.  Transfer the onions and mushrooms to the slow-cooker.


Add 3/4 cup red wine to the skillet and simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom, until the liquid reduces by half — about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer the reduced wine to the slow-cooker.  Stir everything together, then allow the stew to settle for about 5 minutes and remove (and discard) any fat from the surface.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Season the stew with salt and pepper to taste.


We served the beef burgundy over smashed potatoes (omitting the green onions), but it’s also commonly served over wide-noodle pasta.  Go ahead and bust out the cloth napkins and nice table setting — this beef is dressed to impress, and should be served accordingly.

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