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Matchmaker: Boeuf Oregon and Oregon Pinot Noir

An American alternative to a French bistro favorite features good values from the Pacific Northwest

Nick Fauchald
Posted: January 27, 2005

The first time I attempted to make Boeuf Bourguignon, I went to the liquor store and bought the cheapest wine I could find that bore the name "Burgundy." But that was the only Burgundian thing about it. I think it came in a box. The wine was sickly sweet--and the resulting dish tasted much like that wine.

You see, I love Pinot Noir--especially Burgundy--and while I've learned that you should only cook with wine that you'd drink yourself, I can't afford to dump a bottle of Volnay into the pot. And while good bottles of Bourgogne priced under $20 are out there, Oregon is hitting its stride as a world-class Pinot producer, often at more affordable prices. Hence Boeuf Oregon.

Wine Pairing

Drinking what you cooked with--assuming it's a decent wine (see above)--is a no-brainer pairing. And when it happens to be Pinot Noir, often called the fail-safe food wine, the decision is even easier. Because of its crisp acidity and balanced body, Pinot can be matched with a wide variety of dishes, most notably poultry, richer fish, pork and braised meats.

However, Pinot Noir can differ drastically from one bottle to the next, from a silky bouquet of strawberries and flowers to a more muscular concoction of earth and spice. For this pairing, aim for something in between: a medium-bodied Pinot with enough tannins to stand up to the rich braising liquid and a little earth and spice to complement the dish's garnishes.

Recipe: Boeuf Oregon
Serves 4-6

Many paths lead to a good a good Boeuf Oregon. Some cooks strain out the carrots, onions and garlic, others leave everything in. I prefer a smooth, satiny sauce, so I've suggested separating the meat from the vegetables with some cheesecloth, which also helps out if you need to remove the meat to reduce the braising liquid.

Once the meat is browned, this dish doesn't require much labor. So take your time when browning the meat--it's important for achieving a nice caramelized flavor--and wait until it's actually brown (not gray) before removing it and cooking more cubes.

1 tablespoon canola oil
4 slices bacon (preferably dry cured), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips (these are called lardons)
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch dice
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 cups Oregon Pinot Noir
1 1/2 - 2 cups beef stock or beef broth (enriched with a few tablespoons of demi-glace, if you have it)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound fresh button mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
1 pound fresh pearl onions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Dijon mustard

Combine the thyme, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns and cloves in a strip of cheesecloth and tie into a sachet.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving the rendered bacon fat.

Pat beef cubes dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Working in small batches, sear the beef cubes on all sides until nicely browned. Be patient: Don't crowd the meat or it will steam rather than brown. Remove the beef and set aside with the bacon.

Add the carrots and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle everything with the flour and cook for an additional minute, stirring well. Add the herb sachet. Cut a piece of cheesecloth about 5 inches larger than the pot's diameter (this might take two) and cover the vegetables. Place the beef and bacon on top of the cheesecloth and add the wine and enough stock to cover the mixture.

Bring the pot to a simmer on the stove, then cover tightly and simmer gently until meat is fork tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (tougher cuts of meat can take up to 2 1/2 hours to cook).

While the beef is cooking, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the pearl onions. Remove the onions after a minute and cool briefly in a bowl of cold water. Remove the onion skins and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and sauté the mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add the pearl onions and sauté until lightly brown, about 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Uncover the pot. Add the onions and mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes. Using tongs, grab the corners of the cheesecloth and remove the bundle of meat, onions and mushrooms and set aside. Tilt the pot and skim off any fat or foam from the surface. Strain the remaining liquid and reduce to desired consistency. Rewarm the meat and vegetables in the liquid. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with Dijon mustard.

Wines

Wine Score Price
A TO Z WINEWORKS Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2002 88 $17
Fine in texture, with firm tannins around a pretty core of cherry, currant and spice flavors, persisting nicely and with some intensity. Drink now through 2006. 7,600 cases made. --H.S.
 
LEMELSON Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Six Vineyards 2002 90 $18
Supple, elegant and refined, not a big wine but beautifully proportioned to display its raspberry, red currant and sweet spices that linger effortlessly. Delicious and complete already. Drink now through 2010. 1,697 cases made. --H.S.
 
WILLAMETTE VALLEY Pinot Noir Oregon Whole Cluster 2003 87 $15
Lively, jazzy, youthful style brims with cherry and dark berry flavors, framed with fine-grained tannins. Drink it while it's fresh. Drink now. 5,000 cases made. --H.S.
 
ERATH Pinot Noir Oregon 2002 86 $16
Plump and generous with its plum and currant flavors, but it quickly picks up a greenish note, finishing with fine-grained tannins and a touch of oak. Drink now through 2009. 25,900 cases made. --H.S.
 
ARGYLE Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2002 90 $18
Smooth and round, seductively plush but not overwhelming in flavor, keeping its musky cherry, plum and tobacco flavors in harmony as they sail onto the long finish. Drink now through 2008. 19,063 cases made. --H.S.
 
PATRICIA GREEN Pinot Noir Oregon 2002 90 $19
Meaty, slightly gamy flavors swirl around a rich core of raspberry and currant fruit, which lingers on the generous, finely tuned finish. Drink now through 2010. 2,400 cases made. --H.S.
 

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