Boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy)

Cooking with love a la Bourdain

Originally appeared in the September 30, 2010 edition of the Southside Times.

Henry James said “The great thing is to be saturated with something—that is, in one way or another, with life; and I chose the form of my saturation.”

Ten years ago, I was a fairly naïve guy from the south side of Indy, living in Chicago and attending culinary school—wrist-deep in demi-glace and mirepoix.  I couldn’t articulate it with James’ accuracy and eloquence, but I suspected that I’d tapped into the rhythm of something uncommon in which to be saturated.  Read more after the jump: Around the same time within kitchen trenches, word swiftly spread about a new book:  Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.  Not for the squeamish, Bourdain’s book was a tell-all of sorts, giving readers a glimpse into “the back of the house,” permitting “civilians” with a sneak-peek into a sub-culture of which most were blissfully unaware.

Some purists branded Bourdain a traitor for exposing a particular side of the restaurant business—unsavory as it was (and is)—that threatened to somehow damage the industry’s reputation and traumatize the vox populi.

Yet, by and large, most people recognized the punk-rock genius of his literary venture.  In these ten years our culture has became more aware of the industry’s intricacies and arcana, and have grown more sophisticated about our own relationship with food.

A decade since the release of Confidential, Bourdain—whose last kitchen gig was executive chef at Les Halles Brasserie in New York—has gone from being the captain of a motley crew of hardened cooks, to being a pop-culinary hero.

Tonight I’ll be attending An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert at Clowes Hall, presented by the Indiana Humanities Council and the Spirit & Place Festival (November 5 – 14).  This year’s theme is Food for Thought.  And to commemorate the event, I’ve included a recipe from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook.

“I am deeply suspicious of any cook who is less than enthusiastic as well about [intimacy], music, movies, travel—and LIFE…You need love,” writes Anthony Bourdain about the chosen form of his saturation.  And culinarily speaking, our culture and our kitchens are better for it.

From Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook (Bloomsbury, 2004)

Boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy)

Serves 6


2 lb paleron of beef, or “chicken steak,” or same amount of shoulder or neck, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces

Salt and pepper

¼ cup olive oil

4 onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup red Burgundy

6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 garlic clove

1 bouquet garni (1 sprig flat parsley, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, and 1 bay leaf, tied together with twine—tying the bundle in cheesecloth makes it easier to retrieve)

A little chopped flat parsley


Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot

Wooden spoon

Large spoon or ladle

Stage one:

Season the meat with salt and pepper.  In the Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until it is almost smoking.  Add the meat, in batches—NOT ALL AT ONCE!—and sear on all sides until it is well browned (not gray).  You dump too much meat in the pot at the same time and you’ll overcrowd it; cool the thing down and you won’t get the color.  Sear the meat a little at time, removing it and setting it aside as it finishes.  When all the meat is a nice, dark brown color and has been set aside, add the onions to the pot.  Lower the heat to medium high until the onions are soft and golden brown (about 10 minutes).  Sprinkle the flour over them.  Continue to cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the red wine.  Naturally, you want to scrape up all the really good fond from the bottom of the pot with your wooden spoon.  Bring the wine to a boil.

Stage two:

Return the meat to the pot and add the carrots, garlic, and bouquet garni.  Add just enough water [or strong beef stock] so that the liquid covers the meat by one third—meaning you want a ratio of 3 parts liquid to 2 parts meat.  This is a stew, so you want plenty of liquid, even after it cooks down and reduces.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and let cook for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender (break-apart-with-a-fork tender).

You should pay attention to the dish, meaning check it every 15 to 20 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the meat is not sticking or, God forbid, scorching.  You should also skim off any foam or scum or oil collecting on the surface, using a large spoon or ladle.  When done, remove and discard the bouquet garni, add the chopped parsley to the pot, and serve.

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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