This dish is a French classic: a stew created by braising a tough cut of beef in red wine, cooking long and slow to yield something hearty, tender, and full of flavor.
Now shocking as this may seem, this isn’t a summer dish, but that’s ok–I actually made it during the winter, lol! Can you tell that I’m not great about getting all of my posts published right away? 😉 This recipe is based on that of the great Julia Child from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume One, a book I’d highly recommend to anybody who is serious about cooking good food (I’ve also discovered the re-runs of her fantastic TV series on PBS–very worth a watch!).
So whether the weather is cold or you just want something to warm you up and make you feel good from he inside out, this is a stew that will do the trick. The beef becomes fall apart tender while the broth of the stew takes on a very full bodied character–rich from the vegetables, braised shallots, mushrooms, and most importantly, the strong red wine. I chose to add a few additional spices to complement the wine, just to give it a curious additional note, in this case, star anise and tarragon for a subtle but nonetheless distinct anisey character. The result is very hearty and very tasty.
I chose to serve this stew over pasta, so this is my entry for this week’s Presto Pasta Nights.
- 3 lb beef (chuck roast, top round, or bottom round)
- ~5 slices bacon
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 carrot
- 2 shallots
- 5 cloves garlic
- 3 cups full-bodied red wine (e.g. Burgundy)
- 2-3 cups beef stock
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- handful of thyme
- 3 whole cloves
- dash of allspice
- few sprigs of tarragon
- 1 star anise
- 8 oz mushrooms (I used dried porcini)
- Braised shallot(s)
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 (or more) shallot
- 1/2 cup braising liquid (beef stock, mushroom stock, red wine, white wine, whatever)
- 1/2 Bay leaf
Get whatever pot you intend to cook this in–I went with a good sized dutch oven. Get this hot and brown your bacon for about 10 minutes to cook the bacon, and more importantly, to render out the fat. Once time is up, remove the bacon and set aside.
Now, cube the beef into roughly 1-2 inch cubes and rub with salt, pepper, and dredge in flour.
Brown the seasoned beef on all sides in the rendered bacon fat, working in batches if necessary (as crowding the beef would result in steaming, which is not what you want). Set the beef aside.
With the beef removed and the bacon fat still hot, sauté the carrot, shallot, and celery for about 8 minutes, adding the garlic for an additional 2 minutes. After this, add the browned beef back into the mix and pour in the red wine to deglaze, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Once deglazed, add in the beef stock, herbs, dry spices, crumbled bacon from earlier, and tomato paste. Mix this well and get it up to an active simmer. Put the lid on and transfer this to a 325°F oven for 2.5-3 hours.
While you wait on the beef, its on to the braised shallots. If you were to follow the original Julia approach, you’d be brown braising pearl onions, but since those have “onion” in the name, my wife would be very upset with me for bringing those in the house (for the non-regular readers, onions have been banned 😮 ), so shallots it is!
Since pearl onions are small, you wouldn’t bother dicing them at all, but shallots are a little bigger, so I instead halved them (and peeled off the papery coating). Sauté these in about a tablespoon of butter for 10 minutes or so, trying to brown them as evenly as possible on all sides. Then, add in about 1/2 cup of something to braise with–whether it be beef stock, red wine, white wine, or in my case, the liquid used for reconstituting dried porcini mushrooms (mixed with some beef stock). Also add salt, pepper, and the herbs, covering and gently simmering for about 40 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the shallots are quite tender. Remove the herbs and discard.
With the braised onions/shallots done and the beef still slowly cooking in the oven, sauté the mushrooms. If using dried (like me), reconstitute the mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes or so, after which, you should dice and sauté in butter with a dash of salt for about 10 minutes (or until they finally just begin to caramelize). Set this aside.
So finally, time is up and the beef is tender and done cooking. Remove all of the beef and bacon from the broth and set this aside. Set this aside with the braised onions/shallots and sautéed mushrooms. Meanwhile, strain the braising liquid, discarding the solids. Boil this rapidly to thicken a bit, reducing to about 2 cups. Do your best to skim off any fat that bubbles to the surface while this is going.
Once you’re done reducing the sauce, return the beef mixture to the sauce and turn off the heat.
Some time during all of this, it would be good to prepare a side dish. I chose to cook some pasta, but a better side dish would be some baked/boiled potatoes. If you go pasta, plate a round of pasta noodles with some of the stew in the middle. Some crusty baguette would also be quite nice to have on the side.