During the winter season I like to prepare rustic recipes from the French countryside. These hearty dishes are made with staples from the land, such as potatoes and root vegetables, bitter winter greens, cured meats and cheese. My favorite is beef bourguignon, a stew consisting of a tough cut of beef slow-cooked in Burgundy wine until falling-apart tender, mingling with carrots, onions and mushrooms in a rich, savory stock. It’s a delicious one-pot meal perfect for a cold night or an apres-ski meal. It can easily be made in advance, and like most stews, tastes even better the next day for easy planning. Enjoy with a glass of red wine, a roaring fire, friends and family.
Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cognac
4 large carrots, divided
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 (750-ml.) bottle full-bodied red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme
10 ounces pearl onions, peeled
1/2 pound white mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof pan with lid or Dutch-oven. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the beef to the pan, without over-crowding, and brown on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining beef.
2. Add the cognac to the same pan and deglaze over medium-high heat, scraping up any brown bits, and reduce by half. Pour the cognac over the beef and set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Coarsely chop 2 carrots. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same pan. Add the chopped carrots, the garlic, and onion. Sauté over medium heat until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Return the beef and any collected juices to the pot. Add the wine, stock, tomato paste, and thyme. (The beef should be covered by the wine and stock. If not, add more wine or stock to cover.) Bring to boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. About 30 minutes before the beef is finished cooking, cut the remaining carrots into 1/2-inch slices. Saute the carrots in a skillet with 1 tablespoon oil until bright in color and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onions and mushrooms to the same skillet and sauté until lightly golden and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
5. Remove beef from oven. Pour the stew into a large strainer set over a bowl. Remove the meat from the mixture and return to the Dutch oven, then press down on the cooked vegetables in the strainer to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solids.
6. Pour the strained liquid into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half and has a sauce consistency, skimming the fat from surface. Add the sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce back over beef and add the carrots, onions, and mushrooms. Bring to a simmer to heat through, then serve.
Note: Beef bourguignon can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Remove solidified fat from surface before reheating. Reheat over medium-low heat on stovetop, or in a 325 F oven.