Semur-en-Auxois resembles a ‘Village Perché’, tumbling down towards the river Auxois. The skyline is dominated by the twin towers and spire of the gothic church of Notre Dame, and the wide round turrets and ramparts of the 14th century fortress. The view from the river looking towards the romantic duel arched Pont Dinard’ graces the pages of every guide book on the Bourgogne.
There are photo opportunities at every angle. The winding streets lead you beneath arches and up and down narrow stone stairways. Finally opening onto a medieval square surrounded by quaint shops selling antiques and broccante. There is an excellent choice of cafés and bistros. We make our choice. A tradition Bourgognoise brasserie next to the ‘Porte Sauvigny’, the ancient principal gateway into the old town.
I am here now sitting at a table by a window We have ordered a small pichet of ‘nuits de St Georges’ and are sipping it in anticipation of the Boeuf Bourguignon; the aroma of which pervades the room. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and the decor simple and traditional, most of the other diners seem to be locals, so I think we have chosen well.
The Beef arrives in a steaming red wine sauce that is so rich it is the colour of black grapes. It is melt in your mouth tender and garnished with rondelles of carrots, button mushrooms and tiny pearl onions. There is a stack of creamy potato Dauphinoise to complete the plate, and a basket crusty baguette fresh from the boulangerie to mop up any remaining sauce. Now for dessert…
Julia Styles would probably turn in her grave; but as you have all probably begun to realise, I like to keep things as simple as possible, and traditional Boeuf Bourgignon recipes were just too fussy (putting things in and taking things out etc etc)
I love cooking, but am not a slave to the kitchen. So, with risk of offending the purists, here is my version, that received an enthusiastic ‘OUI’ from my French husband.
1lb/750g of Stewing steak (boeuf pour bourgignon)
2 shallots, very finely chopped
2oz/100g of bacon (lardons)
8-12 small pickling onions (as you prefer)
7oz/200g of button mushrooms (I actually like the nutty brown chestnut mushrooms if you can get them)
25g of chilli chocolate (just use 70%+ cocoa solids chocolate if you do not like chilli – but this does not make it spicy, just gives the sauce a little ‘je ne sais quoi’)
3/4pt/350 ml of beef stock
1 tablespoon of cornflour (seasoned with a little salt and pepper)
30g of slated butter
A good glug of olive oil
1 Bay leaf
A good pinch of brown sugar
Additional salt and pepper to taste if required.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed casserole or saucepan with a secure lid (alternatively use a slow cooker) and brown the beef on all sides to seal in the juices, then remove from the pan and set aside (this is best done in small batches so that it seals quickly, if you put too much in the pan at the same time it will create steam and won’t brown)
Sauté the bacon lardons in the same pan for 3 – 4 minutes until beginning to brown, then add the shallots and cook for a further minute, taking care not to burn them.
Return the beef to the pan and coat with the seasoned cornflour.
Add a good glug of the wine, stirring well to form a paste with the flour, then add the beef stock a little as a time, stirring well to avoid lumps developing – if this does happen, just continue stirring until they disappear – they will.
Add the remainder of the wine, and finally the chocolate, stirring until it has melted and is incorporated into the sauce.
Add the Bay leaf and reduce the heat to the lowest possible, and gently simmer for at least 5 hours (the longer the better) stirring from time to time and making sure that it does not become too dry (this should not happen if you have a good seal on your casserole lid – I use ‘le creuset’ cast iron cookware as this seals in the flavours.
1 hour before serving, sauté the carrots in half of the butter for 5 minutes then add to the casserole, then sauté the onions with a pinch of brown sugar until they are caramelized and add them also.
Just before serving quickly sauté the mushrooms in the remaining butter until golden, but not losing their juice and add to the casserole.
Remove the Bay leaf and serve.
Traditionally this dish is served with Daupinoise potatoes, but I have also served it with crisp topped parsnip and potato mash as in the photo.
Simply mash 1 large cooked parsnip and 4 large cooked potatoes with a little melted butter and cream seasoned with slat and pepper to taste, then bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes in order to crisp the top and add another texture to the dish.
This all looks a lot, but trust me it is great for a dinner party as all is prepared hours before, even the potatoes can be made in the morning and heated and crisped in the oven while the hostess is enjoying an aperitif with her guests.
An excellent dessert to serve with this, that is also prepared in the morning, is my chocolate pots, that you can find in the dessert secion.
Please let me know how you get on.
Chocolate pot served in served in an expresso cup, the perfect dessert to follow my Boeuf Bourgignon
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