Happy New Year! I'm embarrassed that I haven't updated in so long but truth be told, I have been so busy the past few months. I'm hoping for a reprieve once we get settled into our new house next month.
I trust you all had a good holiday season? Ours was wonderful. During the time my husband had off work, we watched the movie Julie & Julia. Have you seen it? It's such a great movie and it helped to inspire me all over again! One of the recipes the main character makes is Boeuf Bourguignon and it had me craving (craving!) a rich beefy stock with cooked vegetables.
Growing up, my mom would make stew quite a lot trying to use up the odds and ends of vegetables in the freezer (She can make a mean soup!) and I would have used her method, but I was looking to do something richer... something better (sorry mom!).
I remembered back to when I made Shepherd's Pie. The rich sauce from that dish was exactly what I wanted so I took a little from that recipe and a little from my mom's and went from there.
Something about stew, is you can't rush it. The beef needs to be seared and then braised in liquid until it's so fork tender it literally melts in your mouth. This pot sat on the stove to simmer for at least 2 hours. Trust me... if you give it the proper time it needs, the results will be well worth it!
Begin by taking a package of beef stew chunks, found in any grocery meat department and cutting off as much fat and sinew as possible. Sinew is that muscle layer that sticks to the meat and makes it tough and chewy.
Stew meat is perfect for this. It's rather cheap since it's pieces of meat that are remaining once all the big, regular cuts are made. Since the butcher can't actually sell it as a steak, they sell it for occasions when you need small, bite-sized pieces of meat. The downside is you have to cut off all the undesireable stuff.
Put the cut up stew meat in a bowl or in a large ziploc and sprinkle with flour and salt and pepper. In my case, I used Lawry's seasoned salt. Coat well.
Prep your vegetables. I used one onion (sliced into quarters), 4 carrots (left in their round shape), and 3 white or gold potatoes. You want about 1 1/2 cups of all your vegetables. I also quartered mushrooms to add in later.
Slice up approximately 1/2 cup pancetta. You could use bacon, but the smoky flavor of the bacon is not what we want and will probably overpower the soup. Pancetta is usually found in the deli area of your grocer.
Make your bouquet garni. We want to add a lot of flavor to the stew and this is a great way to do it. In my bouquet, I put thyme, bay leaf, and some flat leaf parsley. In addition to the garni, I minced 1 clove garlic and set it aside.
Heat a soup pot and drizzle in some olive oil. Add a third to half the stew meat. Don't overcrowd the pan. Sear the beef as best you can on all sides. My meat tends to stick together because of the flour so it's difficult browning on all sides. Don't worry about that. Just make sure you get as many sides browned. This will lock in the juices, resulting in tender tender steak! When one half is done, remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat until all meat is seared.
Add the vegetables to the pot with the pancetta and garlic. Saute for a 4-5 minutes. When the onions are nearly translucent, add 2 cups red wine, 4 cups beef stock, and 4 cups chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring the soup to a boil and scrape along the bottom of the pan to bring up those baked on bits of delicious goodness. When the liquid begins to boil, add the bouquet garni and mushrooms, and reduce the heat down to low. Cover the top part way with a lid.
There will be a lot of broth, and we want to reduce it down a little so it leaves you with a rich sauce that has a lot of flavor. If you put the lid on all the way, the evaporated moisture won't have a way to escape and your sauce can't reduce down.
After it simmers on the cooktop for 2 hours, it's time for the last step. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup milk with 1/4 cup flour. Whisk well to remove all lumps. To ensure I don't have any, I strain with a sieve. While stirring, add the milk/flour mixture to the pot. Turn the heat to high and keep stirring until the sauce thickens a little. Taste and re-season if necessary.
This stew is the perfect dish on a cold winter night. Serve with salad and rolls, if you like. As Julia Child would say.... Bon Appetit!