You can prepare a day ahead the base, mushrooms or sauce, or the whole stew and refrigerate. This stew actually improves with flavor when made in advance; so it's great for cooking on the weekend to reheat for weekday meals, or for just preparing ahead for entertaining. It freezes very well..many years ago, I adjusted the ingredients for large quantity, then prepared and froze this dish to serve 100 guests at our housewarming.
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As inspired by Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, The French Chef Cookbook
Serves approx. 4...use a 2 1/2 qt. flameproof casserole dish. (Recipe may be doubled for approx. 8 servings...use a 4 qt. flameproof casserole dish.)
The Beef Stew Base
- 3 oz. lean, unsmoked bacon (I used turkey bacon.), cut into about 1" long & 1/4" wide sticks (lardons)*
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 lbs. lean beef stew meat (I used shoulder chuck.), cut into 2-3" chunks and well-dried on paper towels*
- Approx. 1 c. +2 TB full-bodied, young red wine
- Approx. 2 1/2 - 3 c. beef bouillon (broth--not consume), divided between the base and the sauce
- 1/2 TB tomato paste
- 1-2 pressed garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 small bay leaf
- Approx. 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
- 1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, cleaned & caps quartered (not sliced); stems cut on the bias*
- 1/2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 TB salted butter
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/ea. 15 oz. jar whole, small white or pearl onions--not pickled (I used Aunt Nellie's Holland Style...Kroger has). Drain and reserve the juice for the sauce.
- 3 TB salted butter, softened at room temperature
- 3 TB all-purpose flour
- Reserved onion juice, as needed
- Reserved beef bouillon, as needed
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bacon: Optional.
- Beef: Lean, boneless chunks from the round, rump, or shoulder chuck...chuck is more flavorful. Dry the beef chunks well with paper towels, or they will steam, rather than brown.
- Mushrooms: Clean by wiping with a damp paper towel.
- Wide egg noodles, or rice (garnish w/parsley)
- French bread
- Red wine (same as used for cooking)
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The Beef Stew Base
- Preheat the oven to 300º.
- In a large skillet, brown the bacon lardons lightly with about 1 TB olive oil over medium-high heat, to render the fat. With a slotted cooking spoon, remove the lardons from the pan and set aside.
- Add a little olive oil as necessary to film the skillet to about 1/16" inch and heat over moderately-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the well-dried beef chunks and toss to coat with the oil. Without crowding, brown the beef, adding more oil if needed. Reduce the heat if necessary and turn the meat frequently to brown all sides. Place the beef as it is browned, into a 2 1/2 qt. flameproof casserole dish.
- Pour the browning fat out of the skillet and add the red wine. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, scrape all the flavorful brown bits from the pan into the wine, then pour the wine over the beef in the casserole. Set the skillet aside for the mushrooms.
- Add the browned lardons to the casserole and enough beef bouillon to almost cover the meat. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and bring the casserole to a simmer on the stove.
- Cover the casserole and place in the oven. Simmer for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork. (Check the casserole after the first hour; and if necessary, stir in more beef bouillon for the liquid to come up the meat about half way.)
- In the large skillet used for browning the beef, heat the oil and butter until the butter foam begins to subside. Add the mushrooms and toss over medium-high heat about 3-4 minutes, or until the mushrooms are very lightly browned.
- Remove the mushrooms to a side dish until needed, then toss with the salt. Reserve the skillet for the sauce.
- When the beef is done, remove the bay leaf and set the casserole cover askew, then drain the cooking liquid into a large liquid measuring cup. Add the reserved onion juice...then, more beef bouillon...as necessary, to equal 1 1/2 c. liquid. Pour the liquid into the large skillet you had used for browning the mushrooms.
- Skim off fat (leave a little for flavor) and bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat on the stove. Taste very carefully, then add salt and freshly ground black pepper as you like.
- In a small bowl, with a spatula, cream the butter and flour into a smooth paste. Blend in several spoonfuls of the beef cooking liquid with a whisk. Whisking constantly, blend this mixture into the rest of the beef liquid in the skillet and bring to a simmer.
- Add the mushrooms and the drained onions to the beef in the casserole dish. Pour in the sauce and cover. To blend the flavors, bring to a simmer on the stove over medium heat, and cook slowly for 5 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to just simmer.
- Stir the casserole to baste the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
- If not serving immediately, cool, cover and refrigerate to reheat later. Freezes well.