There are simpler renditions of this classic French dish, but I suspect something is lost in the translation. It's a fair amount of effort to prepare this version, but I think you'll find the result is extra special in the richness of its flavors. The extra work isn't really very hard, it just takes a little planning ahead. Since this dish is a meal-in-a-pot, you won't have to make much in the way of side dishes anyway.
3 cups dry red wine
In a large bowl, combine the red wine, beef stock, brandy, onion, carrots, garlic, parsley stems, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, and bay leaf. Stir well to blend. Add the beef, stir. Refrigerate covered, overnight. We have a Tupperware container that is perfect for this use.
The next day drain the beef, reserving the marinade and vegetables. Pat the beef dry with towels, and season it well with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
Cut the bacon into 1/2-inch long slices. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the bacon, reserving the broth.
Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the bacon to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring often, until they are golden brown. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel.
In the same Dutch oven, over high heat, brown the drained and dried off beef in the remaining bacon fat. Do it in batches so the meat browns evenly. When done, pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Return the browned beef to the pot.
Add the vegetable-and-herb mixture from the marinade (but not the liquid), and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 5 minutes
Add the reserved marinade liquid, tomato paste, and bacon. Bring the liquid to a boil. Taste it for seasoning. Cook in the oven, covered, for 3 hours.
Make a vegetable garnish. Place the pearl onions in a skillet, covering with water. Careful not to use too much water! Add 1 tablespoon of butter, the sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-high heat until they are almost tender. Raise the heat to high, and reduce the cooking liquid to 2 tablespoons. Continue to cook the onions, shaking the pan, until the onions are golden brown and glazed.
In another skillet over medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter, add the mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the mushrooms, tossing often, for 7 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
Meanwhile, prepare a beurre manie: Cream together the tablespoon of softened butter with the tablespoon of flour. Roll the mixture into pieces the size of peas.
Add the cooked onions and mushrooms to the stew. Bring the liquid to a simmer, and add enough beurre manie, bit by bit, stirring constantly, to slightly thicken the sauce.
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All material © 2001-2003, Robert W. Warfield.