Beef Stew...or Boeuf Bourguignon?

Which one sounds better?  It might be the Europhile in me speaking, but the Boeuf Bourguignon sounds so much more appealing.  More special.  Not so Campbell’s-canned-soup sounding.  But is there really a major difference?  I think it’s all in the presentation—and just a few little touches.

In the last ten years or so, I’ve tried several different recipes for making Boeuf Bourguignon, including multiple variations in the Food & Wine annual cookbook round up of the year’s recipes.  Possibly the most expensive recipe I used was one from Carlos’ Contemporary French Cuisine cookbook, which called for sirloin steaks.  But all these recipes, always using enameled cast iron pots (like Le Creuset), doesn’t seem to measure up to a recipe for “Classic Beef Stew” in the little cooking brochure that came with my Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker.  (Click here for the recipe.)  

I’ve decided that I need to experiment with using the pressure cooker for more items.  In making tagines and stews, the pressure cooker does a terrific job—very quickly—of taking cuts of meat like chuck roast and turning it into something you could cut with a spoon.

So, you can follow the recipe using your own pressure cooker—electric or otherwise—and make some simple changes and a key addition.

1) For the stew pictured above, I used multi-colored organic carrots I get with my vegetable CSA.  But even if you don’t have multi-colored carrots, I would still use regular carrots cut up into fairly uniform pieces rather than use baby carrots.  Ever since I discovered hat “baby” carrots are just regular carrots that have been machine cut into smaller sizes, I decided that the waste is not worth it to consume something that looks cute and bite-sized.  Adults can handle cutting up regular carrots. 

2) The recipe calls for 10 minutes of pressure cooking the beef, then using the “Quick Release Method,” and then another 6 minutes of pressure to be followed by the “Natural Pressure Release Method.”  In this instance, I’m not a huge fan of the “natural” method.  It seems to take too long without bringing with it noticeable improvement in flavor.  So for the second step, I would use 8 minutes of pressure followed by another “Quick Release Method.”  The extra 2 minutes of pressure does wonders for making the beef more moist and also eliminates the need for the longer “natural” release.

3) If you are eating “Classic Beef Stew,” you can just follow the directions and serve by itself.  But if you want “Boeuf Bourguignon,” then I suggest that you make sure mashed potatoes (which will cook while you prepare the stew in the pressure cooker) and serve the “stew” over the mashed potatoes. 

Instantly a more French-seeming a dish than a stew served by itself!


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