Burgundy’s Gifts to the World

By Susan Hallett
Susan Hallett
Susan Hallett
July 28, 2014 Updated: July 28, 2014

Burgundy can be said to be a state of mind, rather like Provence, as this part of eastern France has changed hands many times. The famed French writer, Colette, was from a town near Auxerre. “All we really ask … is the right to call ourselves Lower Burgundians,” she once stated.

The treasures of Burgundy, glimpsed as I drifted along various canals in a hotel barge called “La Renaissance” (beautifully fitted out by European Waterways) are not creations of local craftsmen but rather gifts of nature. It is the sloping hillsides and rich soils that have made Burgundy what it is—a very special place to eat well and drink superb wines.

In 73 A.D., the Eighth Roman Legion set up camp in the Burgundian town of Dijon because of the many food shops, taverns, and wine shops that were thriving there. The tradition continues.

Following are some dishes and recipes from Burgundy.

Boeuf a la Bourguignonne (Beef Stewed in Red Wine)

Makes 6 servings

900 g (2 lbs) top round of beef
Small amount of bacon fat
50 ml (4 tbsp) hot water
Salt and pepper
25 ml (2 tbsp) butter
40 ml (3 tbsp) flour
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) red Burgundy
113 g (4 oz) salt pork
12 tiny onions

Cut beef into small chunks and brown quickly in a small amount of bacon fat. Pour off excess fat and replace it with hot water. Salt lightly, add pepper to taste, cover tightly and let simmer. Melt butter, add flour and, stirring constantly, cook to a golden colour. Add wine little by little and simmer over very low heat for 45 minutes. Pour this sauce over the beef and simmer gently for two hours. Cut the salt pork into small cubes, brown in butter, add onions, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add to meat before serving.

Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine)

Makes 4 servings

2 kg (3 1/2 to 4 lb) chicken
Salt and pepper
25 ml (2 tbsp) butter
6 small onions
50 ml (1/4 cup) salt pork (or bacon), diced
4 carrots, diced
6 shallots
1 clove garlic
25 ml (2 tbsp) brandy
40 ml (3 tbsp) vintage red Burgundy
1 bottle young red Burgundy
Bouquet garni (thyme sprigs, bay leaves and parsley stalks tied together)

Cut chicken into pieces and season with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a deep skillet and brown the onions and diced salt pork; remove and set aside. Cook chicken pieces in the butter for about 20 minutes. Add the carrots, shallots, and garlic. Pour off the excess fat, add brandy and set alight. Sprinkle with vintage Burgundy. Cook down, add a bottle of young red Burgundy and the bouquet garni. Cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Remove pieces of chicken, put in a shallow pan, and pour the sauce over them. Add the pork with the onions, and the carrots, shallots, and garlic. Simmer until chicken is well cooked. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Pruneaux au Bourgogne (Prunes in Burgundy)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

500 g (1 lb) prunes
550 ml (2 1/4 cups) hot water
150 ml (2/3 cup) sugar
Vanilla bean
1 bottle of good red Burgundy

Wash prunes and put in a large bowl. Pour hot water over and soak for 24 hours. Drain and dry the prunes in a tea towel. Put them back into the bowl, add sugar and vanilla bean. Pour Burgundy over them. Let stand for 24 hours in a warm spot. Remove vanilla bean and serve in a crystal bowl with unfrosted vanilla cupcakes.

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings, and Doctor’s Review, among others. She is currently the European editor of Taste & Travel International. Email: hallett_susan@hotmail.com