I made my beef stew again this weekend. It's definitely one of my staple dishes and has a lot of the things that I like about food: slow cooked, one-pot-meal, homey. I'd like to share it with you all today. The original can be found in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" under Boeuf Bourguignon. No, nothing is so sacred that it can't be modified. My version of the recipe - Fast & Loose Beef Bourguignon.
Cook Time: 3-4 hours. Feeds 6 (although Chrissie and I have stretched that out longer)
1 Dutch Oven
1 Pair of Tongs
Maybe one extra pot for boiling water
1 6 ounce chunk of bacon - try to find a chunk that has not been sliced.
3 pounds of stewing beef - It's best to find a Rump Roast or a Chuck Roast to cut up. Sirloin Tip, Top Round, or Bottom Round will do also. For the sake of everything good in the world, make sure you find a moist piece of beef. There's nothing more sad than eating a dry piece of beef in a stew.
4+ carrots - depending on how wabbity you're feeling
1 3+ pound bag of baby potatoes - whatever you want
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tb flour
1 bottle of full-bodied, young red wine
2-3 cups of beef stock
1 Tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1 crumpled bay leaf
Parsley sprigs for garnishment
Putting It All Together:
Cup up the beef into pieces about 1 inch long on each side. Dry the pieces.
Slice 1 carrot. Cut the rest into chunks.
Slice the onion.
Cut up the bacon chunk into slices about 1.5 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. Remove the rind from the bacon. If you got salty bacon, simmer it (rind and all) for 10 minutes in water using that extra pot you got out. When that's done, set the bacon chunks and rind apart from each other.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Your oven probably does something a little different than what you actually tell it to do. Mine likes to cook about 10 degrees cooler than what I tell it to do. Set a rack in the middle of the oven.
Heat your Dutch oven over medium heat on your stove. Put 1 Tb olive oil in and saute the bacon chunks in there for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Brown all the sides of your beef in the bacon fat. Were your pieces totally dry? I hope so, this is where it really counts. Browning is best executed when your pieces are dry. I use tongs here, but anything that will keep you from burning your hand will work. I also tend to run out of cooking fat at this stage, so I add in more olive oil (another Tb) whenever I do. Set aside all of your browned pieces.
Once that's done, add in your sliced carrot and onion. Get them brown.
Put the beef and bacon chunks back in. Add the salt, pepper, and flour. Toss the mixture to coat all the beef lightly with flour. Take your Dutch oven and place it in the oven (uncovered). After 4 minutes, toss the mixture, and cook for another 4 minutes. This browns the flour and covers the meat in a light crust.
Remove the Dutch oven and set your oven for 325 degrees F. Reset the rack to the lower third of your oven.
Pour the bottle of wine into the Dutch oven. Then add your beef stock until the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on the stove, then cover it and stick it in the oven. Regulate the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for 2.5-3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While you're waiting for the beef, peel your potatoes. Cut up large sized ones. After your meat has been cooking for an hour add your potatoes and mix up the stew. After another half-an-hour, add your carrot chunks.
Optional: When your stew is done, separate the solid bits from the broth and skim off any fat. Then simmer the sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. Test your broth with a spoon - it should be thick enough to coat it lightly. If it's too thin, boil it down rapidly. If it's too thick, mix in a few Tb's of stock.
I've finished the stew without the last step before and it's tasted great.
Check seasoning, garnish with parsley and serve with noddles, rice, or bread.