The evolution of a classic French dish like Boeuf Bourguignon is a hard act to follow if you happen to liken it to the mighty French chef Julia Childs. Yet, Harry Eastwood is no second banana when it comes to reinventing the wheel for a traditional beef burgundy stew.
A historical dish in the making
When we’re talking about traditional French cuisine, it’s easy to imagine that a recipe has a long-standing history behind it. That couldn’t be further from the truth, since this beef stew is not really that old at all. It’s actually an invention that began in the 19th Century and sprang out of variants that also appeared in the mid-19th Century -likewise. So how exactly did an obscure beef stew cooked in deep red wine gain such popularity?
Well, for most Americans who grew up watching television in the 1960s and 1970s, Julia Childs might as well be credited to introducing French cooking and cuisine.
Her televised cooking show introduced a culture and method of creating French meals that look fun and highly cultured. As if most of us still remember her getting tipsier after adding a dash too much of cooking cherry. Well, after all, it was considered social to drink like a fish…
How times have changed
These days, we have seen many changes in social attitudes about beef and Harry Eastwood is no slouch when it comes to observing these changes. In a world where Veganism and Vegetarianism are on the brink of self-destruction, even an ex-Vegetarian like Harry admits to the big lie we’ve all been fed. There is nothing wrong with eating meat and without a healthy, daily amount of lean red meat.
In fact, no amount of supplements containing natural iron and protein can prevent illness and muscle loss. But the most important part of Harry’s contribution to French cuisine is not shying away from the same mob that wants to cancel her writing career. This is how she has redefined Beef Burgundy stew that has a careful balance of nutrition and outstanding flavor.
What makes the Eastwood version so different?
Oh, did we forget to tell you that ingredients count when it comes to making plenty of flavors? Of course, Julia Childs would disagree, yet she might even agree to the scientific changes that make this recipe work like a charm. Here is a side by side comparison of each ingredient:
- 6 Slices of bacon (cut into Lardons)
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 Pounds stewing beef (2" cubes)
- 3 Cup red wine (chianti or deep red)
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Onion
- 2 Tablespoons flour (all-purpose)
- 1 Pinch course salt
- 2?-3? Cups beef stock
- 2 Cloves garlic (crushed)
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 Bay leaf (crushed)
- ? Teaspoon thyme
- 18-24 Pearl onions (small)
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Pound White mushrooms (quartered)
- 1 Herb bouquet
- 4 Sprigs parsley Chopped parsley
- 2 Sprigs thyme Chopped parsley
- 1 Bay leaf Chopped parsley
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 900 Grams shin or leg of beef f (cubed) - 1.9 Lbs.
- 1 Bottle red wine (Burgundy or deep red)
- 250 Grams baby carrots
- 250 Grams baby onions (or shallots)
- 3 Tablespoons flour (all-purpose)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 300 ml Cegetable or chicken stock 1.2 cups
- 4 Cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 Cinnamon sticks (optional)
- 10 Grams butter 2.5 tablespoons
- 250 Grams button mushrooms
- 1 Herb Garni bouquet
- 1 Celery stalk Chopped parsley
- 3 Bay leaves Chopped parsley
- Thyme sprigs Chopped parsley
Healthier- without sacrificing taste
With this side-by-side comparison, you can immediately see some things are obviously missing from this recipe. The bacon is gone, the excess of pearl onions is gone, and the liquid stock is much lighter. The amount of meat is half of what it was but is leaner and less fatty. While the amount of butter and natural fats are decreased, the number of vegetables and spices add to the flavor signature.
Julia’s original recipe takes 6 hours to render down, while Harry’s only takes a total of 3.5 hours total! What’s even more fascinating is that the original recipe serves 4 people while the new version serves a total of 6. If you want to get really technical, Julia’s version is 970 calories per serving, while the Eastwood variant is just 362 calories. Talk about a big difference in shaving calories without losing any flavor.
What is adding so much flavor?
The celery stalk that is sliced up within the herb Garni bouquet is just part of a standard flavor trick that is commonly used with chicken or vegetable stock. It’s a flavor enhancer that’s further enhanced by the addition of minced garlic and bay leaves. While the wine is simmering down, these flavors are enhanced even more as the lack of fat in the Eastwood recipe replaces fats from the bacon and the butter.
Wine also preserves the moisture of the meat but doesn’t make vegetables like the mushrooms, baby onions, and the baby carrots turn mushy. Another interesting fact is that Shin beef and the Spruce (leg of beef) are very tough lean cuts that need something to tenderize them. This is where the tannins help to tenderize these cuts of beef so they are as tender as they can get.
The cinnamon is not actually French but actually helps with the flavor of the beef and wine. These sticks need to be removed from this finished stew mixture so you don’t crack a tooth.
What this meal is served with
This dish is best served with mashed potatoes with light butter and salt. You can also consider lightly fried potatoes or fresh green beans that are sautéed French style. This means they are sautéed with garlic and parsley. Perhaps a combination of both will complete this meal as you like. Go figure that this recipe will likely become one of your traditional meals sometime soon. Don’t forget to choose a quality red wine, enjoy!