This is one of Julia Child's most popular recipes and the one everyone complains about. "So many pots and pans, my kitchen was a mess!" is the one I hear most often. I have made it so many times over the years that I no longer have to look at the directions, just the ingredients. And here lies the trick. There are a lot of steps you can cut out without sacrificing the dish by simply modifying her directions somewhat and using the same pan to saute some of the ingredients. You will note that my directions only involve two pans, and frankly, if pressed, I could even make it in one pan by sauteeing the mushrooms first and setting them aside before I cook the bacon.
I know this is easy for those of us who have been cooking for a long time, but it just goes to show you that with time and experience, you gain confidence and cooking becomes much simpler and enjoyable .
Keep this recipe in mind as part of a casual yet elegant dinner party.
Servings: Serves 6
You will need:
9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep*
6 ounces bacon
1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef such as sirloin or chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp. thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 small white onions , frozen
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms
3 TB butter
1/2 cup cognac
Cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.
Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.
In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
Remove casserole from the oven and set on top of the stove. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the cognac and ignite. When the flames dies down add the mushrooms (with the butter) and cognac to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Let the casserole rest for at least 2hrs.
For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.
For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
Accompany with Buttered Noodles or Spaetzel: Cook noodles or spaetzel in boiling water according to directions. Add butter, stir ,and add 1-2 TB sour cream, dill, salt and pepper
*I use my Le Creuset enameled (orange) cast iron French oven
Photo Credit Saveurs du Monde
Recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child et al