THE French region of Burgundy is famous for its fine wines, yet it also contributes to French cuisine.
Beef Burgundy, or Beef Bourguignon in French, is perhaps the region's most famous dish. The stew features beef braised in Burgundy red wine and is known for its distinct local flavor.
Tender and juicy beef is cooked in a shiny, slightly thick ruby red sauce.
Weimar Gomez, executive chef at Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, says the two keys to the dish are Burgundy wine and beef Charolais, a species of cattle that originated in Burgundy's Charolais county.
Charolais beef has less fat and a deep, savory flavor.
Burgundy wine is often seen as the most terroir-conscious in France. The soil, geology and climate give its red wines, made from Pinot Noir grapes, elegant floral notes and a fruity flavor.
Traditional recipes for the stew include carrots, onions, mushrooms, lard and bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herbs such as thyme, parsley and basil tied together.
The abundant use of wine in the dish reflects people's love of the beverage in the region, says Kiyi Chen, executive chef at Tonino Lamborghini Boutique Hotel.
The selection of ingredients, especially the beef and wine, along with precise cooking make a good beef Burgundy, both chefs emphasize.
Gomez says the wine is important as it tenderizes the beef, adding more softness to each bite of stew. Chen adds that wine tastes lighter and sweeter when it is used in cooking with other seasonings, giving the beef more complexity and depth.
Chen prefers a medium-body wine for the stew as it adds flavor without overpowering the dish.
"A light wine, after being slow cooked, loses its flavor, which makes the dish taste too flat," Chen says. "However, a heavy wine may overpower other ingredients due to its acid and stringent character."
Chen recommends using Wagyu beef instead of Charolais beef as it has better texture and reduces the cooking time.
"Charolais beef needs to be marinated a whole day and stewed with vegetables for hours to make it soft and flavorful," Chen says. "However, Wagyu beef, which is much more tender, can be pan-fried at a high temperature and then stewed in broth fast, which helps keep the juice in."
Gomez has adapted the traditional sauce somewhat by using less fat to create a lighter flavor.
Food and wine with the same terroir create a special harmony. Burgundy reds, such as Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Pinot Noir, are known for versatility and are highly recommended with this dish. For those price-conscious, Pinot Noir from New World is also an option, such as Chile's Porta Reserve Pinot Noir. (See more choices on B4.)
Here are the beef Burgundy dishes created by the two hotel chefs, who both rely on a traditional recipe with some new adaptations.
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Chen uses filet mignon instead of the usual chuck steak and replaces Burgundy wine with port, a fortified wine that is strong and sweet.
"Filet mignon has a melt-in-the-mouth texture, which improves the taste a lot. Port wine, compared with normal wine, tastes mellower and sweeter," chef Chen says.
The dish is served with mashed potatoes topped with a luscious gravy. The subtle sweetness and mellow taste of the beef is impressive.