Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Braised Beef Stew with Red Wine

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you all had fabulous food-filled holidays.  I made it through the end of my epic finals schedule and had wonderful family time in Seattle.  I did quite a bit of cooking over break, and I will share some of those recipes soon. 

I also enjoyed eating many meals cooked by OTHER people- including my Dad’s Beef Bourguignon, which he made for our annual family cookie decorating party.  This is not his recipe, but I have been craving comfort food since getting back to snowy Boston, and this seemed like an interesting take on the classic French stew.  Plus, my second-semester-3L schedule gives me ample time for long braising projects.  So I bought some beef and stuck it in the oven with wine, and my apartment smelled incredible all afternoon! 

This is a Jacques Pépin recipe from Food & Wine, which at first gave me pause.  The beauty of braising is that it’s easy: effortless, one-pot, less-dishes-to-wash, simplicity.  This is especially important for a person like me who is sans-dishwasher!  The problem with gourmet chefs (like Jacques Pépin) is that they tend to complicate the ease of braising by inserting additional steps to the recipe, which inevitably involves more dishes and more stress. 

For example, when I see a braising dish that requires STRAINING of any kind, that is a huge red flag.  Pouring hot liquid through a tiny colander?  This presents far too many opportunities for me to make a huge mess and scald my arm, plus what am I pouring the braising liquid into?  A new dish.  Which equals more dirty dishes.

This recipe does require the dirtying of one extra pan to make the garnishes, but I promise the result is worth it.  Sooooo so worth it.  And the complication of the additional pan is offset by the simplicity of the rest of the recipe.  No stock or demi-glace required!  Just throw in a whole bottle of wine and you will end up with a broth so delicious you will probably consider licking the bowl.

serves 4
adapted from Food & Wine
click here to print

2 lbs lean beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon flour
1 bottle red wine (any dry red will do, I used Pinot Noir)
2 bay leaves (I left this out and it was still yummy)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
15 pearl onions, peeled
15 cremini mushrooms, larger ones cut in half (you want all pieces to be roughly the same size)
4 carrots, cut into pieces that are roughly the same size as the mushrooms and onions
5-ounce piece of pancetta (or you can sub bacon), cut into ½ inch dice
½ cup water
Dash of sugar
Chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, oven-safe pot.  Add the beef in a single layer, season with salt and pepper.  Cook over high heat for about 8 minutes, browning the meat on all sides. 

Add one cup of finely chopped onion and one tablespoon of finely chopped garlic.  Cook over moderate heat for an additional five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add one tablespoon of flour.  Mix in well so that the flour doesn’t form lumps.  Stir in one bottle of red wine.  Add the bay leaves and thyme, bring to a boil and cover.  Stir well and place the pot in the oven for 1 ½ - 2 hours.  The meat should become tender, and the sauce will reduce.  The recipe can be prepared up to this point a day ahead. 

For the garnishes, add the pancetta to a skillet and cook over medium heat until it has browned and rendered its fat, about 5 minutes.  Add the onions, carrots, and mushrooms, along with ½ cup of water and a generous dash of sugar, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes; at this point there should be practically no water left.  Uncover and cook over high heat until nicely browned on all sides, about four minutes. 

To serve, mix in some of the vegetables to the stew.  Sprinkle the rest as a garnish along with the chopped chives.

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