Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, March 2001
This is the classic French stew. So amazing and complex. I actually just served this for a dinner party of 17. It was perfect because I was able to do it a day ahead.
This is not the kind of dish most of us can prepare as a weeknight meal, even in a crockpot. I do serve this as a weeknight meal, though. One cold, dreary winter Saturday each year, I spend the afternoon making a double or triple batch of this. I vacuum seal and freeze it in weeknight-sized portions. The dish really improves with age. Better still, refrigerating it allows you to defat the sauce the next day (just skim off the congealed fat from the surface).
When reheating, consider removing the meat from the sauce with tongs or a slotted spoon. Warm the sauce over medium heat until bubbling, turn the heat to low, then add the meat back in to rewarm. This method will save you any agony from overcooking your meat while rewarming it. I know you don’t mean to do that, but when your toddler overflows your toilet and the dish gets obliterated by 20 minutes of cooking over high heat while you mop up the mess, you’ll be thinking that it would’ve been a good idea to spend thirty seconds pulling out the meat to save the dish.
¼ lb thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1” pieces
3 lb boneless beef chuck, but into 2” pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup brandy
1 each 4” piece of celery
4 fresh parsley stems without leaves
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves (preferably not Californian)
2 small or one large onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, cut into ¼” thick slices (about 1 to 1 ½ cups)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750 ml bottle dry red wine, preferably Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone
1 lb small boiling onions or pearl onions
1 lb white mushrooms, quartered if large
Blanch the bacon
- Cook bacon in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain. The idea is to render some of the bacon fat so that you don’t have a greasy sauce.
Brown the beef
- Pat beef dry and season with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish.
- Heat one tablespoon oil and 1 ½ tablespoons butter in a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Lightly dredge each piece of beef in the flour, then place in pot. Brown beef well on all sides in 2 or 3 batches, without crowding, adding more oil as needed. Be careful to control your heat so as not to burn the fond. Transfer meat to a bowl.
Compose the stewing liquid
- Pour off any excess oil from the pot, then add brandy. Deglaze by boiling over high heat one minute, stirring and scraping up fond, then pour over beef.
- Tie celery, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together with kitchen string to make a bouquet garni. Push cloves into celery.
- Heat one tablespoon butter in cleaned pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté bacon, stirring, for two minutes. Add chopped onions, garlic and carrots, then sauté, stirring until onions are pale golden, about five minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, one minute. Add wine, meat with juices, and bouquet garnii. Cover pot tightly and move to oven. Turn oven to 250-degrees and cook 2-3 hours. Stew is finished when a meat thermometer or skewer inserted into the meat goes in smoothly and with almost no resistance.
Prepare vegetables for finish
- While meat stews, blanch pearl onions in boiling salted water for one minute and drain in a colander. Plunge into ice water. Peel.
- Heat one tablespoon butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté boiling onions, stirring occasionally, until browned in patches. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 cups water (1 ½ cups if using pearl onions), then simmer, partially covered, until onions are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Heat remaining tablespoon butter in a large skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms, stirring until golden brown and any liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stir onions and mushrooms into finished stew and cook over low heat on range of in 250-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove bouquet garni and skim any fat from surface of stew. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve over mashed or boiled potatoes.