~ Spirited Beef Stew with Cognac and Red Wine ~
For many days I’ve been saying that it’s Beef Bourguignon weather, so I finally stopped the talk and got cooking. I made this stew over the weekend, and the weather did not relent, gifting us with a deluge of rain worthy of an ark – and a cognac and wine infused beef stew. If you have to experience a torrent of rain, I dare say this kind of food makes it enjoyable – especially when accompanied by a creamy potato gratin, a robust bottle of Zinfandel wine, and a crackling fire.
Beef Stew with Cognac and Red Wine
Ideally start the stew a day ahead of serving. Not only does the flavor improve with time, it allows the fat to rise to the top as it cools. The next day, lift off the solidified fat from the surface before you reheat the stew. Serves 6.
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cognac
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (750-ml) bottle full-bodied red wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock
4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
10 ounces pearl onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, ends trimmed, halved if large
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick
Fresh thyme sprigs
1. Pre-heat the oven to 300°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the beef to the pan in one layer without overcrowding. Brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat until all of the beef is browned.
2. Add the cognac to the pot and deglaze, stirring up any brown bits. Reduce by half, then pour the cognac over the reserved beef.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the carrots, onion, and garlic to the pot. Saute over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften without browning, about 4 minutes. Return the beef and cognac to the pot. Add the wine, stock, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover the pot aand transfer to oven. Bake in oven until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. Strain the liquid from the stew into a saucepan. Separate the chunks of meat from the vegetables and return to the Dutch oven. Press down on the remaining vegetables in the sieve to extract as much juice into the drained liquid as possible. Discard the vegetables.
5. Boil the liquid until the sauce is reduced by about 1/3 and somewhat thickened. As the sauce boils, skim the fat from the surface (if you are making the stew one day in advance, you may skip this step since the fat will be removed after refrigeration). Stir in the sugar and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the beef. (At this point the stew may be made one day in advance. Cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight. One hour before serving, remove from refrigerator and proceed with recipe).
6. One hour before serving the stew, prepare the vegetables. Blanch the onions in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute; drain. When cool enough to handle, remove the skins; set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until light golden, about 3 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Steam or saute the carrots until bright in color and al dente. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms.
7. Skim any collected fat from the surface of the stew. Heat over medium-low heat on the cooktop to loosen the stew. Add the onions, mushrooms and carrots. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until stew and vegetables are hot. To serve, ladle the stew into warm bowls and garnish with fresh thyme.