All I can say about this winter so far is that we need more snow. I realize that some of you probably think I’m totally nuts (Mom), but winter in New England begs for snow and I feel ripped off. Ha!
We had a little more than a dusting last Friday that caused more traffic issues than anything else and I watched the flakes fly from my window at work rather than from my windows at home.
Sadness all around and in the meantime, I’m living out my winter fantasies with gorgeous photographs. Nonetheless though, it sure has been COLD!
And cold weather calls for stew.
This French beef stew – which is actually called beef daube – is different from other beef stews I’ve made in the past. That’s because the meat in this recipe is oven-braised, yielding fork-tender and perfect fall-apart beef.
The gravy is a bit thinner as well – it’s more of a sauce – though it’s quite perfect lingering around some creamy mashed potatoes in the bowl.
This French beef stew, much like your regular American beef stew, is full of carrots (hey look! we’re still eating from our garden’s summer carrot bounty!). But also included here are parsnips, onions, shallots, and fresh herbs.
It’s a wonderfully warm and hearty winter meal that we both quite loved and it certainly kept us satisfied for days afterwards with its leftovers.
And because this version doesn’t contain potatoes IN the stew, I could definitely get away with serving them with the stew.
If you’re not feeling mashed potatoes and want something a little fancier, might I suggest my very favorite cheesy hasselback potatoes instead? They are DIVINE!
And because you don’t really want to lose the crispy cheese topping on the mashed potatoes, you should probably serve this French beef stew on the side of those potatoes instead of atop them. Just my 2 cents though!
French Beef Stew
- Prep Time: 40min
- Cook Time: 2hrs 30min
- Yield: 6-8 servings
Mashed potatoes and egg noodles are the obvious vessels for this beef stew but mashed or riced cauliflower would be an excellent choice as well.
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 ½ – 3 ½ lbs beef roast (chuck or other), visible fat and sinews removed, cut into 2-inch pieces, patted dry with paper towels
2 tbsp canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
6 shallots, thinly sliced
1 garlic head, halved horizontally, only loose papery peel removed
1 ½ pounds carrots, trimmed and peeled, halved crosswise, and halved or quartered lengthwise, depending on thickness
½ pound parsnips, trimmed, peeled, halved crosswise, and quartered lengthwise (optional but recommended)
¼ cup Cognac or other brandy
1 bottle (750ml) fruity red wine (like Merlot or Syrah)
A bouquet garni—2 thyme sprigs, 2 parsley sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, and the leaves from 1 celery stalk, tied together in a piece of cheesecloth
Preheat oven to 350° F with a rack in the center of the oven.
Add the bacon to a large Dutch oven (5 or 7 ¼ quart) and cook over medium-high heat until the pieces are browned but not crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon and drop the pieces in a large heatproof bowl. Heat one tablespoon of the oil and working in two batches, cook the beef in a single layer – do not crowd the meat – browning on all sides, about 2-3 minutes total. Scoop the beef from the pot with the slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the bacon. Once all of the meat has browned, sprinkle a pinch or two of salt and a few cranks of pepper over it in the bowl. Pour off all of the fat from the pot, leaving the brown bits stuck to the bottom.
Heat the remaining oil over medium heat and toss in the onions and shallots; cook until just softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, carrots, and parsnips. Pour in the Cognac and turn up the heat to medium-high and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the beef, bacon, and bouquet garni and then pour the entire bottle of wine over the beef. Give everything a good stir and bring the wine to a boil over high heat.
Once the wine boils, cover the pot with a piece of aluminum foil and then the cover. This will ensure too much of the moisture doesn’t escape from the pot while in the oven.
Transfer the pot to the oven and allow the contents to braise, undisturbed, for 1 hour. After an hour, uncover the pot and if too much of the liquid has evaporated (it probably hasn’t), pour in some hot water – just enough to barely cover the meat (you don’t want to submerge it). Recover the pot and allow the contents to continue to braise, undisturbed, for another 1 ½ hours.
At this point, the meat should be fork tender and just about falling apart. If it isn’t, continue to braise (covered) for another 30 minutes. Mine was perfectly cooked after 2 ½ hours in the oven. The sauce will be semi-thin, slightly thicker than a broth. If you want it thicker like an American stew gravy, pour it in to a pan and reduce it on the stove top to your desired consistency. We didn’t feel it needed any thickening (plus we were starving), and so the thin-ish sauce served over some creamy mashed potatoes was just perfect. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In the fridge, this will keep well for about 3 days. Freeze for up to 1 month.
adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
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