Makes 10 servings
Since we quarter-lifers today don’t necessarily have as much time or space as the average American home cook of Julia Child’s era, I mixed and matched her techniques with a simplified version of this dish in Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. The ingredient ratios were also adjusted to fit my crowd of 10.
12 ounces cured bacon, diced
5lbs chuck beef, cut into 2 inch cubes
2lbs carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces
3 Vidalia onions, diced
4 tbsp flour
1 bottle red wine (Cote du Rhone)
1 quart beef stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2lbs button mushrooms, stems trimmed and quartered
2lbs frozen pearl onions
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a large Dutch oven, sauté the bacon in 1 tbsp of olive oil until brown and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate.
3. Pat the beef dry with paper towels—this is the major Julia-ism that defines the perfection of this dish. If the meat is not dry, it will not brown properly. When the oil is very hot, add the beef in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan. Brown the beef on all sides and remove to the plate with the bacon. Repeat until all the beef is browned.
4. Pour out about half of the oil in the pot. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until brown and slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and bacon back to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour over the meat, and toss until the beef is evenly coated. Place the pot uncovered in the oven for 4 minutes. Remove, toss the meat to redistribute, and return to the oven for another 4 minutes. (This was one key step in Julia’s recipe that made the meat increasingly brown and crispy).
5. Turn the oven back down to 325 degrees, and place the pot over a medium flame. Add the wine and enough stock to barely cover the meat. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Taste for seasoning, and add any extra salt as necessary. Turn the flame to high, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot and place it in the oven for about 2 ½ hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
6. While the meat is cooking, sauté the mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of butter until browned and tender. Set aside.
7. When the beef is ready, remove to the stove-top over a medium flame. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the stew and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter. (This will thicken the stew and save you the trouble of straining the mixture and simmering it aggressively in a separate pan as Julia does). Add the frozen onions and the mushrooms and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the stew has thickened slightly and the flavors have intensified. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.
Serve the meat with a large piece of torn crusty baguette, buttery potatoes with herbs, and a light, vinegary vegetable like the asparagus below.