Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, huh? Sorry about that!
I stumbled upon a beautiful recipe when I was looking for a hearty and classy beef stew to serve at my Winter Solstice party, but after a first, trial run, I discovered that it needed a significant amount of tinkering (I’m glad I had that trial run!). Here’s how I do it. It’s a little fussier than I usually go in for, but it’s TOTALLY worth it; trust me.
Start by cooking a few slices of thick bacon in a deep, wide pan. I usually go with four slices, because that’s what fits in the bottom of my pan, and cook the rest in the oven to snack on while I get on with the rest of the recipe. Once the bacon is crispy, transfer it to paper towels and let it drain, then dump two thinly sliced onions (I love my mandoline slicer!) into the bacon leavings and cook them over medium-low heat until they turn soft and slightly caramelize. Just before they’re done, drop in a few cloves’ worth of chopped garlic, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn. Fish the onions and garlic out of the pan and transfer them to the bottom of a crock pot.
While that’s going, prepare your stew beef. Make sure all the chunks are about evenly sized and lay them out on paper towels to dry. Sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, then brown the meat in batches and transfer it to the crock pot, too.
The original recipe called for a half cup of cognac, but since I don’t keep cognac in the house, I use a half cup of good Scotch. Pour it in with the last batch of the beef and use it to deglaze the pan, then light that puppy on fire (watch your eyebrows!). Once the flames die down, pour what’s in the pan into the crock pot.
Into the crock pot, dice or crumble the bacon, drop in a small can of tomato paste, a couple cups of baby carrots, and a bag of frozen pearl onions, and cover the whole thing with a bottle of the red wine of your choice (I use pinot noir, but whatever you really like is fine). If you find you need more liquid (I never do), top it off with some beef broth. Stir it around to distribute the tomato paste and the vegetables, pop on the lid, crank your crock pot to high, and leave it alone all afternoon.
About ten minutes before you’re ready to eat, clean and quarter a bunch of white mushrooms and sautee them in butter; you can add these to the stew at the end or, as we do in my family, allow those who like mushrooms to scoop some into their bowls. My usual vehicle for this yumminess is toasted rustic bread spread with a little roasted garlic paste, but it would be fabulous over polenta or coarsely mashed red potatoes, or even rice (or in a bowl all on its own). It reheats beautifully and makes a really nice lunch a few days later; this is a dish that could even be prepared the day before you need it.