Beef Cheek Boeuf Bourguignon

The winters in Burgundy are cold. On the dark days of January when the bare ground is bitten by frost and days are short, the heady days of summer seem feel like another time and place altogether.

However that's the climate we have here and these harsh winters and hot summers are the ideal conditions for the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, that make the world class wines Burgundy is famed for.

This varied climate also provide Burgundy with a varied cuisine and in the winters the food is heavy and rich, the perfect fuel for those cold days of hard work in the vineyards.

The local classic that the region puts its name to is of course 'Boeuf Bourguignon'. First mentioned in cookbooks in 1903, by chef Auguste Escoffier, whose decedents still live  in Beaune, it is likely this hearty, wine-soaked dish has it roots much deeper in regional history.

The famed Charolais beef that dot the Burgundian hillsides have been bred here since the 15th century. Wild pigs have been hunted and cured since the Gauls roamed the forests and since the Romans settled here, there has never been a shortage of red wine.

Making the most of ingredients that store well over winter or can still be found in the ground, such as carrots, mushrooms, onions and hardy herbs, this one-pot classic is likely to have been warming Burgundian homes for hundreds of years.  Why it is often served with pasta here in Burgundy is somewhat of a mystery, but when you consider the scale of the Burgundian territory and trade links in the middle ages, perhaps this is a gift from from the other side of the Alpes. 

A Boeuf Bourguignon from Burgundy

When I make a 'Boeuf Bourguignon' here at The Hungry Cyclist Lodge I like to use beef cheeks. Incredibly tender and full of flavour, this special muscle has an abundance of tiny tendons running through its meat which melt away on cooking to give that sticky lip-smacking sauce that makes this dish so special. 

  •  220g smoked streaky bacon
  • 800g beef cheeks cut into chunks
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 bottle of Beaujolais
  • 2 cups Bovril or Beef stock
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • spring of rosemary
  • spring of thyme
  • sprig of sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • butter
  • 250g button mushrooms, halved

 1.   Chop up your smoked-poitrine or bacon and add to a large casserole and cook with a knob of butter until it starts to crisp on the edges. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

 2.   Add the flour to a bowl with two pinches or salt and the same of ground black pepper. Add your chopped beef cheeks and turn through the flour until all our coated.

 3.   In the same pan that you cooked the bacon add the floured pieces of beef and cook until browned on all sides. Once browned set aside.

 4.   In the same pan again add a little more butter and plenty of cracked black pepper. Then add the onion, celery, garlic and carrot. Cook on a low heat until the celery and onions are translucent.

 5.   Return the browned beef to the pot, turn through with the other ingredients and then add the beef stock and red wine and bring to a gentle bubble.

 6.   In a separate pan cook the mushrooms until they have releases a little of their water and then spoon into the pan with the beef along with the bacon. Drop in the bundle rosemary, bay thyme and sage on the top. Cover and place in the oven for three hours on a low heat. (180)

7. Just before serving cook your tagliatelle until al-dente. Turn through with a little olive oil and a hand full of finely chopped parsley.

9. Serve the Boeuf Bourguignon next to the tagliatelle, open a bottle of Cote de Nuits Village and enjoy. 

Wine Suggestion: Jane Eyre Gevrey-Chambertin 2012