Jan 142008

Every year since I can remember, my family has eaten beef burgundy on Christmas Eve. The warm wine and beef flavors, served atop noodles, the meat perfectly tender… this is the food that memories are made of. Which is good, because it means that the substantial effort required to put this meal on the table is worth it. I mean, come on, this is a dish three days in the making – you know it has to be good. This recipe is like the poster child of the slow food movement.

The beef begins its long slow marinate
Nikon D50

Even though this year was the first that I’d ever enjoyed this meal on Christmas itself (it was our tradition to eat this on the Eve), this is the single dish that I associate the most with warm and cozy family dinners around the holidays. We often spent Christmas with extended family, but Christmas Eve was a smaller affair, and beef burgundy, with its warm and sensuous flavor, was the perfect dish for a more intimate setting.

Deliciousness is served
Nikon D50

Now that I’m all grown up, having married and struck out on my own, I find that I’m in a fun situation: I get to make my own traditions with Cory now. Not surprisingly, beef burgundy made the cut. We enjoyed our first Christmas as husband and wife huddled over a bowl (or two), eating the food that will tie the years of our lives together.

Every family deserves a beef burgundy of their own.

For the backpacker’s version of this recipe, scroll all the way to the bottom: it’s posted at the end of the traditional version of the recipe.

I don't want to wait another year to eat this again!
Nikon D50

Beef Burgundy
Adapted from French Cooking — ‘Round the World Cooking Library (out of print)
Serves 6

You will need:

  • 3 pounds lean boneless chuck, cubed
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Leaves from about 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Several tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 750ml bottle of French Burgundy, good merlot, or good pinot noir (use the best wine you can afford – you may need more than one bottle)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 pound lean salt pork or good quality bacon, cut into thin strips
  • 18 small white pearl onions
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Around one quart beef stock
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen fettuccine or egg noodles (not dried!)

To prepare:

  1. Place the meat, onion, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Combine the wine and olive oil, pour it over the meat mixture (ensuring that it covers the meat) and marinate overnight or for a day, stirring occasionally.
  2. Place the pork in a heavy casserole and saute until the fat is rendered. Add the onions and saute until they are tender and browned and the pork is crisp. Remove the pork from the pan.
  3. Remove the meat from the marinade. Dry the cubes of beef with paper towels (if you don’t the meat will steam, not saute). Saute the beef in small batches (again, otherwise the meat will steam) in the hot fat, browning well on all sides. Sprinkle on the flour, cook for a few minutes so that it loses the raw flour flavor, and then pour on the marinade and enough beef stock (you probably won’t need the whole quart) so that the meat is covered. Bring to a bare simmer, cover, and cook for two hours at the bare minimum until the beef is meltingly tender.
  4. In the meantime, lightly saute the mushrooms in the butter. When the beef is done cooking, add the onions and mushrooms to the pot, taste, and adjust the seasonings. Simmer for another 15 minutes to blend the flavors.
  5. For best results, let cool and refrigerate. Serve the following day, since the flavors develop over time. If you are serving the dish that day, during the final simmer, cook the noodles. Serve the beef burgundy over a helping of pasta.


  • This recipe makes a phenomenal backpacking dish! You have to cut out most of the fat (and some of the attending flavor), but if you’ve been out on the trail for several days, this will still taste like a meal fit for royalty, especially if you get to eat it while enjoying a view like this, as I have. As a bonus: it is leaps and bounds easier to prepare than the traditional version. Recipe follows.

Backpacker’s Beef Burgundy
An original recipe
This will make enough for four people (probably), depending on your backcountry cooking set-up and hunger levels.

You will need:

  • 1.5 pounds extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • About 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Several tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 750ml bottle of red wine (quality is not as important in this version)
  • 18 small white pearl onions (or a 12oz package of frozen)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • About six ounces of short pasta (whole-wheat if desired)

To prepare:

  1. Place the beef, onion, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, in a bowl. Pour in enough wine to cover the ingredients and marinate for four hours or up to a day, stirring occasionally.
  2. Strain the solids out from the wine (reserve the liquid). Heat a wide pot like a Dutch oven or saute pan over medium heat and add the marinated solids and pearl onions. Cook until the meat is browned, stirring or scraping often to prevent sticking (you may add a little oil if you need to). Use the back of a spoon to squash the pearl onions so that they separate out into their layers.
  3. Pour the reserved marinade-wine and beef stock into the pot and bring to a simmer and cook for 10-20 minutes so that the liquid begins to reduce somewhat (but not too much). Add the pasta and cook until tender.
  4. Continue to cook the backpacker’s beef burgundy until the liquid is nearly completely reduced, stirring often at the end to prevent sticking and burning. Let cool, remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs, then spread out on lined dehydrator trays and dehydrate on the meat setting until completely dry, paying special attention to the pearl onions. Store in a cool, dark place (or even your freezer) until your next adventure!

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