04 April 2009

Meatballs Burgundy

That would be « Boulettes de bœuf à la bourguignonne » in French. It might seem like a strange idea, but it turned out to be pretty good — Bœuf Bourguignon made with ground beef.

Actually, to be more precise, it is « Boulettes de bœuf à la tourangelle », because I used local Touraine wine, a vin de pays from the co-op in Saint-Romain-sur-Cher, to make it. Any drinkable, dry red wine will work fine.

Boulettes de bœuf à la tourangelle
meatballs cooked in our local red wine

Since ground beef is so easy to get in the U.S. (and in France nowadays), and since meatballs cook a lot faster than stew beef does, this might be a practical alternative to the classic Beef Burgundy. The traditional version cooks for three hours or more because it takes that long for the beef to get tender. And then meatballs are just good — moist and tasty without needing long cooking.

A ground beef mixture for making meatballs

I used about 2 lbs. of ground beef. Incorporate into the meat a finely chopped onion or shallot, a couple of mashed and chopped garlic cloves, a pinch of dried thyme, 2 Tbs. of finely chopped fresh parsley, and some salt and pepper. Mix in half a cup of fine bread crumbs, and work in two beaten eggs.


Form the mixture into meatballs about one inch across.

Sauté some sliced carrots and onions.

Then proceed as for the classic Beef Burgundy. Slice up and sauté a medium onion and a couple of carrots in a non-stick pan. Slice some fresh mushrooms, or rehydrate some dried shitakes, and sauté those too.

Finally sauté and add in about 6 oz. of smoked pork lardons (or bacon). Smoked pork, mushrooms, and onions are standard ingredients in Bœuf Bourguignon, along with red wine. As these flavoring ingredients get slightly browned and cooked, transfer them into a higher-sided pan or stew pot. Keep it warm on a low flame.

Carrots, onions, mushrooms, and smoked pork give flavor.

Sauté the meat balls in the fat from the lardons or bacon. Do them in two batches so that the pan doesn't get too crowded. Brown them on all sides. They don't need to cook completely, because they will braise in liquid for 30 to 60 minutes before you serve them. When the first batch of meatballs is cooked, put them in the pot with the carrots, onions, mushrooms, and bacon.

Brown the meatballs in a frying pan.

As the second batch of meatballs gets browned, sprinkle 3 Tbs. of flour over them. Add a little butter or vegetable oil to the pan if necessary so that the flour can absorb it and get moistened. There should be no lumps. Let it cook for three or four minutes. Then pour two cups of red wine into the pan and let it come to the boil. Stir it gently as it thickens.

Pour all that into the stew pot over the flavoring ingredients. If you rehydrated dried mushrooms, add the mushroom liquid to the pot. Pour in enough water or broth so that all the ingredients are just covered.

Add red wine and water just to cover the sautéed ingredients.

Season with salt and pepper, put in a couple of bay leaves, and bring the stew up to the simmer on top of the stove. You can stir a tablespoon of tomato paste (or even ketchup) into the stew to enrich it and give it good color — but don't overdo it.

Let it cook, covered, for 30 t0 60 minutes, either on a low flame or in a low oven. You want it to simmer and bubble but not boil hard, because you don't want the meatballs to fall apart.

I guess this is comfort food too.

Serve these MeatballS Burgundy with pasta, boiled potatoes, or rice, and a green salad. And bread — that goes without saying. With it, drink the same wine you used to make the sauce (or an even better red wine if you have one).


  1. What a good idea! It's indeed a lot quicker to prepare. And it makes a nice change from our traditional 'Boulettes sauce tomates' (which a love by the way). I've never seen 'boulettes sauce tomates' on a menu in France. Could it be a Belgian classic? :)) Martine

  2. Hi Martine,

    One of my old French cookbooks, Monique Maine's Cuisine pour Toute l'Année, has a recipe for "boulettes de viande à la tomate" —it calls for beef, veal, and pork. Sounds good.

  3. Oh, looks delish! I've never totally succeed with Boeuf Bourguignonne but your recipe looks easy.

  4. I made Boeuf Bourguigon yesterday. Another spooky blogging coincidence?

  5. Oh my, this dish could take me right to taste bud heaven! Thanks for the recipe.

  6. Hi Ken, Your MM recipe sounds good indeed, but a bit complicated. We just use ground pork. Mix it with an egg (1 per 4OO gr of meat appox.) pepper, salt, nutmeg and 'chapelure'. Make meatballs of approx. 2,5 to 3cm in diameter. Prefry them in a pan, just like you did. Next, put them in the tomato sauce that you have made earlier (recipe to follow, if you like) and let them simmer for about 30 min. Serve with 'frites' and (for those who like) a big 'blob' of mayonnaise. Bon appetit! Martine

  7. Oh, yes, great idea! Looks yummy, as always. Thanks for the pictures.


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