October 31, 2010
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This French classic is beef stew at its very best. Of course with a dish this popular there are a seemingly endless number of subtly different recipes. For my starting point I went to the master, Julia Child, from whose Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York 1961) I adapted this version. Despite my having simplified it a bit it is still rather involved but the result is well worth the effort. Serve it with boiled potatoes and green peas.
- 4 ounces thick-sliced bacon, about 4 or 5 rashers, sliced crosswise into match-size strips
- 2 pounds stewing beef, I used eye round, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Flour, I used rice flour for a gluten-free preparation
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, halved lengthwise then sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- ¼ cup Cognac mixed with ¼ cup brown stock
- 2 cups dry red wine
- Additional brown stock
- Large pinch dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Salt and pepper
- 12 brown-braised onions
- 6 ounces mushrooms, sautéed in butter
Film the bottom of an enameled Dutch oven with olive oil and render the bacon over medium heat until just crispy. Remove leaving as much fat in the pan as possible. Set aside.
Toss the beef cubes with flour to coat lightly. Raise the heat to medium high and, working in batches, brown the meat thoroughly. Set aside with the bacon.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Reduce heat under the Dutch oven to medium and cook the onion and carrot until softened and starting to brown. Deglaze the pan with the Cognac and stock scraping up all the stuck bits adding a bit more stock if needed. Return the beef and bacon to the pot; add the wine and enough stock to just cover the meat. Add the thyme, bay leaves, and garlic. Bring to boil, cover, and place in the oven for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. After 30 minutes or so check to see that the stew is at a gentle simmer and reduce or raise the heat as needed.
While the meat cooks, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set aside.
When the beef is done, empty the contents of the pot into a large strainer set over bowl or sauce pan. Remove the bay leaves and return the meat to the pot. Defat the sauce and thicken to coat the back of a spoon by boiling for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Layer the prepared onions and mushrooms over the meat and pour the sauce over. Heat briefly before serving.
- 12 small white or yellow onions, about 1 inch in diameter, peeled
- 1 tsp. butter
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- Pinch dried thyme
- ½ cup brown stock
Heat the butter and oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté, tossing often, until nicely browned, about 10 minutes. You will not be able to get them completely evenly browned but that is fine. Sprinkle with the thyme and pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for about 30 to 40 minutes. (If you are making a stew, just pop the covered frying pan into the oven instead.) Uncover and let most of the liquid evaporate.