NB: These pictures are terrible. I know that. I almost forgot to take pictures at all. I promise to work on my fuzziness...
This recipe is partially my dad's (it was the first thing he cooked for my mom, so it must be pretty good) and partially Julia Child's, because I just got my hands on Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My version has lots of onion and mushroom stewed down to a melty sauce, with the carrots baked on the side (instead of in the stew) for some texture.
You'll need (serves 6):
3lbs beef stewing meat
6 oz bacon (4 thick slices)
5 onions, thinly sliced
1lb button mushrooms, sliced
1 bottle red wine
maybe some beef stock, probably not
1T tomato paste
1t fresh thyme
2 crumbled bay leaves (yes, crumbled)
4 cloves garlic, minced to a paste
small red potatoes
This is very easy but a bit time consuming. Prep will take 1-2 hours; unattended cooking, about 3 hours. It's also best to make the night before-- the flavors really develop overnight.
Step One: The bacon
Slice bacon into lardons-- thin (1/4") strips, cut the short way.
Put bacon in 1 1/2 quarts water and bring to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes.
Drain and dry bacon. Heat a Dutch oven (or any heavy, large pot with a close-fitting lid) and saute bacon in 1T oil over medium heat until it browns and fat is rendered.
Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside
Step Two: Brown the meat
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Rinse meat and dry very well. Salt, pepper, and dredge in flour (shake off excess flour).
Heat rendered fat until very hot. Brown meat on all sides in batches (Do not crowd the pot, or the meat will not brown. It will steam and turn a nasty shade of gray and remind you of mystery meat served in a cafeteria you never even had.). If necessary, add more oil.
Set browned meat aside, with the bacon.
Step Three: Brown the veggies
In the fat left in the pot (add more oil if necessary), saute onions with a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to medium-low so that the onions release their moisture and become coated in the fond (browned bits). When there's no more moisture (and the onions are caramel colored), add the mushrooms and saute until dark, about 10 minutes. The mushrooms should release moisture as well, so you shouldn't have to add any oil. Adding salt will coax the water out.
Step Four: The wine
Put the bacon and meat back into the pot and stir. Add salt, pepper, and 2T flour. Mix and place in oven, uncovered, 4 minutes. Mix again and return to oven, 4 minutes. Remove.
Lower oven temp to 325 degrees.
Return pot to stove; pour in 1 bottle wine. If this doesn't cover the meat, add beef stock until meat is almost submerged. Add tomato paste, thyme, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; simmer until alcohol evaporates, about 5 minutes.
Step Five: Cook
Place covered pot in 325 degree oven. If the lid isn't a good fit, place a sheet of aluminum foil into between pot & lid. Cook (check every so often to make sure it's simmering gently) until meat is fork-tender, about 3 hours. About 30 minutes before it's done, mix in the potatoes (which you've scrubbed and cleaned, of course) and let them cook with the stew. Don't overcook them-- the cool thing here is the textural and visual contrast between the firm potatoes that remain white inside and the gooey unctuous brown meat and sauce.
Step Six: Eat!
This is best done the next day but is fine anytime. Mmmmmm.
Oven Caramelized Carrots
Peel carrots if they're not organic. Quarter lengthwise and toss in a bowl with 2T olive oil, 1t coarse salt, 1T pepper, 1t sugar, 1T fresh chopped thyme to coat. Bake on a baking sheet, in one layer, at 425 degrees until brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes.
Thinly slice (julienne) savoy cabbage, savoy lettuce (the purple stuff), a bell pepper, a carrot, fresh mint, and anything else that's tasty and crunchy and colorful. Dress with a vinaigrette of 3T fresh lemon juice (one large juicy lemon), 2T dijon mustard, and enough olive oil to emulsify. Let sit, dressed, at least 1 hour until cabbage wilts slightly and flavor develops.