Julia Child’s –Where’s the Beef?!– Bourguignon




The best thing about having a food blog is that it encourages me to try recipes I wouldn’t normally try. I don’t eat a lot of stew, for example. Like many four-year-olds and autistic children, I much prefer the different foods on my plate to be separated and not touching. I wanted to try imitating a traditional meat dish, though, and I do love seitan, so I decided to adapt the beef bourguignon recipe from Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I’m happy to report that a vegetarian version of this classic works very well. I can’t personally vouch for its authenticity since I’ve never had the real thing, but my meat-eating boyfriend/taste tester assured me that it was on target. (And just so you know he’s honest, I’ll disclose that he called my fortune cookies “off the mark.”)

If I made this recipe again, I would change one thing. I felt there was too high a seitan-to-everything-else ratio. I made enough for about 4 servings. If you try making this recipe at home, I would recommend either cutting the seitan recipe in half to make 2 servings or doubling the sauce and vegetables to make about 6 servings. (But, to be clear, I wrote the recipe down exactly as I made it.) If anyone tries this at home, please let me know how it goes!

Here is what you’ll need:

For the seitan:

•       2 cups vital wheat gluten

•       1 tsp garlic powder

•       1 tsp smoked paprika

•       1 ¼ cups vegetable stock

•       2 tbs soy sauce

•       1/4 cup pan-searing flour (all purpose is ok)

•       1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the sauce:

•       1 1/2 cups full-bodied red wine (I used a Chianti that I found in a half bottle size)

•       1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

•       1 tsp tomato paste

•       2 cloves pressed garlic

•       1/2 tsp thyme

•       1 bay leaf

•       salt and pepper, to taste

For the sides:

•       10-15 small white onions

•       2 tbs Earth Balance

•       1/4 cup vegetable stock

•       1 tsp salt

•       1/2 tsp sugar

•       2 sliced carrots

•       16 oz cremini or baby bella mushrooms

•       2 tbs olive oil

•       fettucini or your preferred type of pasta (optional)

•       fresh parsley, for garnish


To make the seitan, combine the wheat gluten, garlic powder, and paprika in a mixing bowl. Combine the vegetable stock and soy sauce in a separate bowl and pour the wet ingredients into the dry.

Mix with a spatula until it becomes too difficult. Then press and knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth. It shouldn’t take too much kneading and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Rip the dough up into small pieces. They should be a little smaller than you want them to be in the end, because they will expand when they cook in the stew.

Just a note: if you’re short on time, you could try buying premade, uncooked seitan, which is available in many grocery stores, and skip all the directions up to this point. I’ve never tried it though, so I can’t guarantee it’s any good or vouch for particular brands.

Sprinkle the seitan pieces with flour and toss to coat.

In the bottom of a large pot with a lid, heat the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil on medium heat. Place a piece of seitan in the pot. If the oil is hot enough, it should sizzle. Once you know it’s hot enough, add the rest of the seitan to the oil, being careful not to splash any hot oil on yourself.

Let the seitan get brown on the bottom, and then flip it so it can brown on the other side. This adds a skin-like outside layer to the fake meat.

Don’t pile the seitan up or the pieces will stick together. If your pot isn’t big enough, just do a few pieces at a time.

Here is what the browned seitan should start to look like:

If you were browning your seitan a few pieces at a time, now you can put it all back in the pot. Pour in the wine and the vegetable stock. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Stir gently to combine.

Bring the pot to a simmer, then put its lid on.

The stew should remain at a simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, so keep an eye on it and adjust the heat if you need to.

Now is a good time to take a break! Ideally, the vegetables will finish sauteing around the same time that the stew finishes simmering. I waited about an hour and a half before I started the next step, and the timing worked out pretty well.

When you’re ready, the next step is to brown braise the onions. You’ll have to peel them first, which is annoying. Sorry. It’s easier, though, if you blanch them first.

In a large skillet with a lid, sauté the onions in Earth Balance until they’re lightly browned.

Then add 1/4 cup of vegetable stock, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp sugar. Mix them around.

Put the lid on and let the onions simmer for about 20 minutes, until they’re soft.

They should look like this:

Note: if you’re planning to serve your seitan on a bed of pasta, now would be a good time to start boiling the water.

Add the carrots, mushrooms and olive oil to the onions. Season with salt and pepper.

When the veggies have cooked and the seitan has been simmering for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, turn the heat under the skillet to low.

Using a slotted spoon, take the seitan out of the sauce and add it to the veggies. Also remove the bay leaf and discard. Leave the sauce in the pot.

You should have about 1 ½ cups of a thick sauce. If it’s too thick, you can add some more vegetable stock. If it’s too thin, you can boil it down a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the sauce is ready, pour it over the seitan and veggies.

Serve this dish alone or on a bed of noodles. I think potatoes would also be good, but I didn’t try it. Garnish with fresh parsley.

EDIT 10/14/2011: Please be advised that some readers have had problems making this recipe at home. See the comments for more details. It’s a time-consuming recipe, so I don’t want anyone to be unhappy with the results!









8 Responses to “Julia Child’s –Where’s the Beef?!– Bourguignon”

  1. February 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm

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  2. 2 Cindy Herrera
    April 6, 2011 at 2:49 am

    I tried this tonight (resulting from a weird obsession after watching Julie & Julia) and it was soooo good! I increased the liquids (e.g. 2 cups instead of 1 1/2) and the veggies a bit and the ratio came out perfect! But like you, I had never tried the original, so have nothing to compare it to. I ate it over steamed brown rice.
    The only thing I had issue with was the Seitan–this was my first time, and it came out a little rubbery. It tasted great and even looked like real meat when I browned it, but should I have added something to it (nutritional yeast, soy flour, etc.) to get the texture closer to real meat? Kneaded it more? Tried a different shape (like strips)? Any help/advice would be very welcome, as I plan to cook this stuff again and again and again!!!

    • April 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      I’m glad you tried it! I watched Julie and Julia too and it definitely made me want to experiment with some of the recipes. (Just not the aspic!) As for the seitan, experimenting with different sizes and shapes might be a good idea. My pieces were pretty small; if they’re too thick they might not cook all the way through. Strips are a really good idea. If you do want bigger pieces, you could also cheat a little by browning them at a lower temperature so that they have more time to start cooking in the pan. I’ve also read that wrapping seitan tightly in cheesecloth before simmering gives it a firmer, more meat-like texture, though I’ve never tried it. I hope some of that was helpful. Good luck/happy cooking!

  3. October 11, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    i’m curious about the cooking time – “real” beef bourguignon takes 2-3 hrs because the meat needs to cook through, but without the actual meat, is it necessary to simmer it so long? mine is already looking super thick after just 30mins, and i’m worried there won’t be any sauce left in 2 hours!

  4. October 12, 2011 at 10:47 am

    hmmm so after an hour i checked it, and almost all the sauce was gone!! (lid was on the whole time)

    • October 14, 2011 at 1:10 am

      I’m sorry the recipe didn’t work for you! My sauce didn’t simmer away, but I did feel there should be more of it. That’s why I made a note recommending halving the seitan or doubling the sauce–I’m not sure if you tried that or not. I wish I had time to experiment with this recipe some more, but I’m now back in school and I haven’t updated this blog in a while. The commenter above notes that she increased the liquids and had good results, barring some seitan-ic problems…I’ll add a note to the end of the recipe advising that people read these comments before making it at home. Thanks for your feedback!

  5. October 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

    well, my husband loved it anyway! there was enough sauce to coat the seitan and veggies. i wasn’t a big fan of the seitan, either, but i’m really fussy/weird about textures AND i don’t think i made the pieces quite small enough.

    but thanks for posting the recipe! i’ve never had “real” bourguignon either so i have comparisons.

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