Our family loves a good beef stew, especially now that the cold weather has hit hard. I love making one big pot that will feed the family for a few days and this beef stew fills both bills nicely. The reason I call it French-Irish is because we really like elements from both types of these dishes. Beef bourgeon by itself has a fantastic depth of flavor that I really appreciate with a richness that we find a little overwhelming at times. From the French side, I prefer to sear the beef without dredging in flour and instead use a beurre manié to thicken the broth. Flaming the cognac with the vegetables adds another layer of flavor that marries well with the mushrooms that are sautéed in butter and added at the end. But we like Irish stew too with its chunky vegetables, potatoes and savory Worcestershire sauce. I have spent a considerable amount of time merging the elements from both to create a hybrid of sorts. It combines all the flavor we long for from the traditional rich, French recipe, but with the earthy goodness of an Irish dish.
The recipe starts with marinating the beef in the bottle of wine, garlic and bay leaves. The red wine imparts a beautiful mahogany hue to the meat.
The next step is to brown the bacon, I like mine nice and crispy. I use an 8 1/2 quart Dutch oven that has a large surface area that facilitates the browning and searing process.
While the bacon is cooking, I begin the process of drying all the beef so it will sear properly. Remember to keep the marinade! Don’t throw it away, it is important later on.
While the beef is searing in several batches, I prep the vegetables and garlic for their turn in the pan.
The beef is then removed to rest with the bacon for later, and the vegetables go into the pan until browned. I like a lot of caramelization on both my meat and vegetables, so I spend the time needed to get the color I want.
Now is the time for the cognac. If you are not comfortable with this step then it is not necessary. I have been out of cognac and skipped this step in the past and the stew is still great. But, I would encourage you to try it at least once to judge for yourself. It really does add a wonderful flavor and the flame kiss on the vegetables is hard to get from searing alone. If you are worried, turn off the heat then add the cognac and stand back during the ignition. Once lit remember to turn the heat back on! I have made that mistake before.
Once the flames die down, it is time to deglaze with the reserved marinade. The recipe calls for 2 ½ cups, which is just about all of the marinade. Scrape up any brown bits (known as “fond”) over high heat. Add the beef broth, tomato paste, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Add in the reserve bacon and seared beef and bring to a boil. Lower the temp to a simmer, cover and put into the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until all vegetables are fork tender.
While the stew is in the oven, prepare the beurre manié and the sautéed mushrooms.
Combine 2 T of the butter with the flour to make a paste. You will be able to add as much or as little as you like to thicken your sauce to your liking.
Use the remaining 2 T of butter to sauté the mushrooms and set aside.
When the stew is ready place it on the stovetop and add the beurre manié, sautéed mushrooms and peas. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer for ~15 min.
I like to serve this with rolls brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with thyme and fleur de sel.
I hope you give this one a try and please let me know what you think! Every recipe can be improved upon and I would love your feedback!
2 ½ lbs good quality chuck beef, cut into cubes (~ 1 ½ inches)
1 750ml bottle of red wine
3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
3 bay leaves
1 T olive oil
8 oz. apple wood smoked bacon, diced
2 yellow onions, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1 – 1 ½ inch cubes
1 lb. small Yukon gold potatoes, halved or quartered
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ c. cognac, if using
2 ½ c. reserve marinade
2 c. beef broth
1 T tomato paste
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t. fresh thyme leaves (or ½ t dried thyme leaves)
1 T kosher salt
2 t. fresh ground pepper
4 T room temperature unsalted butter, divided
3 T all purpose flour
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 10oz. package of frozen peas
Place the beef in a large bowl and cover with the bottle of red wine. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cover the bowl. Refrigerate over night.
The next day, preheat the oven at 250° F.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the bacon over medium heat. Remove the bacon and reserve for later.
Remove the beef from the marinade (save the marinade!) and pat dry completely. Add salt and pepper to taste and sear the beef in the bacon fat in small batches. Do not crowd the pan, take your time and sear all the sides. Remove the beef and store it with the bacon for later.
Add the onions, carrots and potatoes to the pot and allow to brown for 15 to 20 minutes, or until your desired doneness. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the cognac, if using, carefully stand back and ignite. Allow the alcohol to burn off. When the flames die down deglaze the pan with 2 ½ cups of the reserved marinade. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Add the beef broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the reserved beef and bacon, and any accumulated juices from the pan into the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and put into the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the vegetables are fork tender.
When the stew is done in the oven place on the stove over medium heat. Combine 2 T of butter with the flour to make a paste. Add the beurre manié in small batches by stirring into the stew, it will begin to thicken immediately. Sauté the mushrooms in the remaining 2T of butter. Add the mushrooms and peas to the stew and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Season to taste.