My best friend teases me whenever we plan one of our book club meetings, because my first question of the hostess is “what are you making?” rather than “what are we reading?”  At least I have clear priorities!  When it finally came time for me to host book club, I already had my menu perfectly in place.  While the other girls chose their meals based on the book we were reading, my book, Bringing Home the Birkin (our ONE fluffy book of the year – don’t judge), did not easily lend itself to cuisine. 

Instead, I based my fare on the season.  We were just entering Fall, and the chill in the air called for something heartier than our staples of salads and cheese plates.  I’ve always wanted to make beef bourguignon, but I was worried that the girls wouldn’t eat something so heavy – a colossal plateful of butter noodles drenched in huge pieces of meat and thick-cut vegetables doesn’t quite convey a ladylike carte du jour

To remedy this, I served the bourguignon as a smaller course atop a bed of pommes puree, with parmesan popovers and herbed butter as a starter (see these recipes here).  The result was flawless – the tender pieces of beef braised in lush red wine perfectly complimented the pearl onions, carrots, and butter glazed mushrooms.  A few of the girls even had seconds!  I think that Julia Child said it best when she described beef bourguignon as “one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.”  xx tt

Recipe – adapted from Barefoot Contessa



·  1 tablespoon olive oil 

·  8 ounces center-cut applewood smoked bacon

·  2 + ½ pounds chuck beef

·  Kosher Salt

·  Black Pepper

·  1 pound carrots

·  2 yellow onions

·  2 cloves garlic

·  ½ cup Cognac (Brandy is fine too)

·  1 entire bottle of dry red wine (I used Pinot Noir)

·  1 can beef broth (2 cups)

·  1 tablespoon tomato paste

·  1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or ½ teaspoon dried

·  4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

·  3 tablespoons flour

·  1 pound frozen pearl or miniature onions

·  1 pound mushrooms


·  Prep your ingredients

1)      Dice the bacon

2)      Cut beef into 1-inch cubes

3)      Slice carrots into 1-inch diagonal pieces

4)      Slice yellow onions

5)      Chop garlic

6)      Discard mushroom stems and slice the caps thickly

·  Preheat oven to 250 degrees

·  Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven (or something very sturdy with a top that can go into the oven for an extended period)

·  Add the bacon, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 10 minutes

·  Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon to a plate

·  Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt + pepper

·  In small batches, sear each side of the beef cubes in the bacon oil using tongs

·  Remove the browned cubes to another plate, and repeat until all cubes are browned

·  Set aside the bacon and beef

·  Add the carrots, yellow onions, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper to the bacon/meat fat – cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally

·  Add the garlic, cook for 1 more minute

·  Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol (this isn’t as scary as it sounds – make sure you ignite all of the Cognac, it may be in patches that will necessitate lighting a couple of matches)

·  Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices

·  Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat

·  Add the tomato paste and thyme

·  Bring to a simmer

·  Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 ¼ hours

·  Remove the bourguignon from the oven and return to the stove

·  Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the bourguignon

·  Add the frozen onions

·  In another pan, saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the bourguignon

·  Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes

·  When cooled, put in the fridge overnight, or for several hours

·  The next day, put the bourguignon back into the oven at 250 degrees for an hour or two (this is totally worth it, because the meat turns into delicious little pieces that easily pull apart reminiscent of short ribs – rather than chunky beef cubes)

·  Season to taste, and serve!