Understanding the Culinary Definition of 'Bourguignon'

Beef bourguignon
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The word bourguignon (pronounced "bore-green-YONE") refers to a recipe that is prepared in the style of the French region of Bourgogne (known as Burgundy in English). Burgundy is one of France's major wine-making regions, producing both red and white wines—although the wine most people associate with the name Burgundy is red.

Given this association, a recipe prepared à la bourguignon will likely feature meat or poultry which is braised in red wine along with mushrooms, onions, and bacon.

A classic recipe prepared in the bourguignon style is beef bourguignon (Boeuf à la Bourguignon in French), which features beef braised in red wine, pearl onions, and button mushrooms, flavored with strips of pork fat called lardons. A bourguignon sauce is based on the demi-glace sauce, which is a thick, rich, brown sauce. 

Classic Cuts of Meat for Beef 'Bourguignon'

Traditionally, beef bourguignon was made with a large cut of meat from the beef round primal cut, such as the top rump or top round. Older, more traditional recipes from many centuries ago, called for strips of pork fat threaded into the meat using a long needle in a process known as larding. This is a way to simulate marbling and is not common for beef anymore. Modern beef, which is much more marbled than it was a couple of centuries ago, does not require larding. However, it is useful for preparing game meats such as venison, which is very lean and dry.

Today, it is very common to make beef bourguignon with beef chuck rather than beef round.

Other French Dishes From the Burgundy Region

The classic French dish is known as coq au vin (rooster in wine) also originated in the Burgundy region and it is essentially beef bourguignon prepared with a rooster instead of beef.

Rooster is tougher and gamier than chicken, so it is useful to prepare it by slow cooking it with the strong flavor of the wine. Coq au vin is commonly prepared with chicken, as the chicken meat is more tender than rooster meat.

Variations on the Classic

Sometimes you'll see beef bourguignon prepared with peas and/or carrots and sprinkled with parsley prior to serving, mainly to add color to a preparation that is rather monochromatic. For a vegetarian variation, you can prepare a mushroom bourguignon by substituting thick slices of portabello mushrooms for the beef. 

What to Serve With Beef 'Bourguignon'

Beef bourguignon pairs best with something warm that can sop up the delicious sauce that accompanies the stew. Mashed or roasted potatoes, polenta, or egg noodles are all good options. Another way to serve beef bourguignon is paired with thick toasts on a plate, placing the beef bourguignon on top of the toast. It can also be wise to pair the stew with a simple green salad with an acidic dressing to help balance the richness of the beef. If you plan on serving wine with your meal, using the same red wine that you cooked with will be a nice accompaniment.