This is a somewhat time-consuming dish, since it has to cook on the stove and in the oven, but well worth it on a cool, Fall evening. I’ve actually made this amazing dish twice in the last month! You may want to make it the night before since it takes a while to cook, but it is definitely worth the effort.
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ lb bacon or turkey bacon, cut into ½” slices
2½ lbs chuck beef cut into 1″ cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb carrots, scrubbed and sliced diagonally into 1″ chunks
2 yellow onions, cut into good sized chunks
2 tsp chopped fresh garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder
½ cup dry brandy (Ina calls for Cognac, but I didn’t have any.)
1 bottle dry red wine (Three buck Chuck worked fine.)
2 cups of beef broth
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1½ tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried (I used several stems of Thyme and fished out the stems later.)
6 Tbsp butter at room temperature
3 Tbsp flour
2 more yellow onions cut into quarters (Ina uses frozen pearl onions)
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced. (I used two containers, pre-sliced.)
A nice rustic bread, thickly sliced (I used an Herbes de Provence loaf.)
In a big dutch oven, heat oil and saute bacon until lightly browned. Remove from pot. Dry beef cubes with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add beef to bacon drippings. If you’ve used turkey bacon, you’ll want to add a little more oil at this point.
Cook meat in batches, browning on all sides. (Actually, I did dump it all in and just stirred it occasionally, until the water had reduced and the meat was all nicely browned. I suppose a proper cook would be more patient. Alas…)
Remove the beef to the plate with the bacon. Add the carrots and the two onions cut into chunks to the pot. Add 1 Tbsp salt and 2 tsp pepper and cook 10-15 minutes until onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the Sherry (or Cognac) and be ready with a lighter. Hold the flame just above the mixture and watch the blue flame burn away the alcohol. It’s pretty cool. Just be careful to have the pot away from anything flammable!
Add the bacon and beef back in along with any juices from the plate. Add the bottle of wine, and the beef broth. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, then cover and place it in a 250 degree oven for about 1½ to 2 hours until the meat and veggies are nice and tender. Remove pot to stove.
Mash together 2 Tbsp of butter and flour until you have a smooth paste and stir into the stew gently. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp butter and saute the second batch of onions for several minutes until they turn translucent. (Normally you would just add frozen pearl onions at this point, but I don’t really like them and my family is pretty picky about onions, so sauteeing them helps cut the oniony bite. Add the onions to the pot.
Wipe out the pan, and add 2 more Tbsp of butter. Saute the mushrooms for 10 minutes or so, until they are starting to brown and the water they have released is mostly dried up. Add to the stew pot.
Finally, give everything a nice stir, and check seasonings.
Toast the bread under the broiler until nicely toasted, then rub a raw clove of garlic on the toast. Place it in a flat bowl, ladle the stew over and serve. (Ina adds fresh parsley as a garnish, but I forgot and it was still pretty delicious.)