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Greg's Beef Bourguignon Facsimile

My wife called this morning from Ashgabat, the world's strangest city, to say, "Hurry and get over here. I'm starving to death!" Dana has rejoined the Foreign Service after a decade-long hiatus, and (she hopes) I'll be joining her in Turkmenistan in a few days. Her plea reminded me of another time and another recipe that I shared in Kept: An American Househusband in Paris, when Dana didn't appreciate my cooking quite as much as she does right this second.

Tonight, we’ll have mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus alongside my adaptation of boeuf Bourguignon, a family favorite. I’d cooked the beef yesterday and so only have to warm it and finish the sauce. Cole sets the table while I mash the potatoes with butter and milk and remove the asparagus from a 400-degree oven.

“Alright. Let’s do this,” I tell Cole.

“À table!” Cole cries, and the family comes running.

“My God, that smells amazing,” Dana says as she sits to dinner. “Oh, asparagus again, I see.”

“It’s in season,” I say flatly.

Cole helps me plate and delivers the food to the table. We dig in.

“Is the sauce usually this thick?” Dana wonders aloud.

“Mama, you’re complaining again,” Cole cautions.

“What? This meal is amazing.”

I’m irritated. “You’ve been here less than a minute, and you’ve already complained twice.”

“Darling, no,” Dana says. “You just misunderstand me.”

“Alright, children,” I say. “Let’s play a new game called Ask a Three-Year-Old. Our first and only contestant is Nina! Nina, if Mama says the sauce is a little thick, is that complaining?”

Nina breaks into an awesome smile and nods emphatically.

“And there we have it ladies and germs! Nina has spoken.”

“I wasn’t complaining,” Dana mumbles.

Later, when the kitchen’s cleaned, stories are read, and kids are tucked in bed, Dana and I catch up on the couch. I put my legs in her lap.

“I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you rub my feet.”

She grimaces. “Uh … well, what’d you do today?”

“Me and Francis both had our kids in halte-garderie this morning, so we went to Angelina’s and spent pretty much the whole morning just talking. Then we met some lost Japanese tourists and walked them to Les Halles. Then we went and picked up Nina and Sam. Walked the whole way there. Francis didn’t have to go home because her mom and dad are in town and picked up her kids, and so she had lunch with us and hung out while the kids took a nap and then she went home. By the way, she wants to make a trip to the commissary in Kaiserslautern this weekend, and so I’m thinking I’ll probably go with.”

“You and Francis sure do enjoy each other’s company.”

“Yep. She’s my bud.” It’s true; Francis and I are practically joined at the hip these days.

“Yeah. I know.” She purses her lips.

“Wait. You’re not jealous, are you?”

“Not at all. I’m happy you’ve, uh, found such a good friend …”

“But?”

“… nothing … I just …”

“Go on. Spit it out.”

“Well, it’s just … well … I mean, did you have to pick the most beautiful woman at the embassy to be your best friend?”

“Sweetheart …”

“What?” She stares at the couch.

“Honey. Look at me.”

She looks, tentatively.

“Sweetheart.” I take Dana’s hands. “Listen to me.” I pause; I know what I want to say, but I have to get it just right. “That’s silly. Francis is not the most beautiful woman at embassy.”

“No?” she squeaks.

“No.” I gaze lovingly into her eyes. “Honey … everyone knows … Megan is the most beautiful woman at the embassy.”

Dana attacks. “Why, you little …”

“Ha! That’ll teach you not to complain about my cooking!”

We tussle.


Greg’s Beef Bourguignon Facsimile

2-3 lbs. boneless, well-marbled chuck roast.

2 carrots

1 onion

2 tomatoes

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 bottle of Burgundy or other dry red wine

Up to 1 lb. of white mushrooms

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. butter

Salt, pepper


Preparation: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Set the butter out to soften. Place the roast in an oven-safe pot. (Some would brown the roast here, but I’ve never had a single person say, “man, if only you had browned the roast …”)


Smash the garlic and coarsely chop the carrots, tomatoes and onion. Peel the onion first, but there’s no need to peel the garlic or the carrots, and you don’t have to peel or core the tomatoes. (Julia Child would sauté these vegetables now, but, as I frequently remind a certain someone, I am not Julia Child.)


Toss these veggies in the pot with thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and pour the bottle of wine over the top. Cover with an oven-safe lid and bring to a simmer on the stovetop. Transfer to the oven and cook for two-and-a-half hours or so while you bask in the aroma.


Halve and sauté the mushrooms. (You can do this up to a day ahead of time.) Remove pot roast from oven and let cool. If you’re tired at this point, just stick it in the fridge and finish the rest tomorrow; it’s okay. Otherwise, remove the roast from the pot, tear or slice into chunks, cover and set aside.


Pour the remaining contents of the pot into a colander set in a large bowl. Using a large spoon, press the cooked vegetables through the colander into the bowl below. Pour the contents of the bowl back into your large pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the mixture somewhat. Check the salt.


In a small bowl, use a fork or your fingers to combine the flour and softened butter. Whisk the flour-butter paste in small amounts into the vegetable puree-wine liquid until desired thickness is achieved; you likely won’t need all of it. At this point, you should have a large amount of delectable, thick-ish gravy. Return the chunks of beef to the pot, add the cooked mushrooms, combine and serve immediately. Spoon over mashed potatoes, and they’ll love you forever. As always, please serve with a green vegetable. - g



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