A Note from Barb

This is a very classic French dish. (Julia Child has a famous version in her Joy of French Cooking.) It's important to use fresh and simple ingredients, however for the 'pearl' or "petite" onions, I use about a ½ of a 14-ounce bag of frozen onions, as fresh ones are sometimes difficult to find and more time consuming since they must be peeled. As well, for your beef stock, while you should avoid using bouillon cubes, feel free to pick up a can or box of organic stock.

This dish can be made up to three days before serving, as long as you keep it refrigerated. When reheating, do so in a pan on the stove over moderate heat. I prefer to make it ahead of time, as the flavors marry and the overall flavor is more developed. 

If you'd like, the dish can be served with noodles. When serving it, I prefer to do so with a wide egg noodle, potatoes, or rice. Garnish with parsley if desired.

The Ingredients

  • 6 oz (about 5 – 6 slices) good quality bacon, preferably ‘uncured’
  • Olive oil or other cooking oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (such as rump pot roast, chuck pot roast, sirloin tip, top round )
  • 1 carrot, sliced in rounds or half circles
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups full bodied young red wine such as Cotes du Rhone, Burgundy, Beaujolais, or Chianti
  • 2 – 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered
  • 18 – 24 ‘pearl’ or ‘petite’ onions

The Directions

Step 1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Step 2. Sautee the bacon
Sautee over moderate heat in an oven-proof casserole for about 3 – 4 minutes, stirring often, once done remove from the casserole with a slotted spoon to a plate or bowl and set aside.

Step 3. Dry the cubed beef in paper towels
If you do not do this step, the meat will not brown on the surfaces. Add some olive oil or cooking oil to the remaining bacon fat in the casserole and heat up over moderate temperature. Sautee the beef cubes in batches, so the pan does not get crowded and each piece has a chance to brown on all four sides. Place each batch of sauteed beef with the reserved bacon.

Step 4. Sautee carrot and onion
After all of the beef is sauteed and out of the casserole, add the carrot and onion and sautee them on moderate heat, stirring often so they do not scorch. Remove the excess oil/fat.

Step 5. Add the beef and bacon to the casserole
Add the beef and bacon to the casserole to accompany the carrot and onion. Toss with salt and pepper, then add the flour, sprinkling it over the meat and vegetables and mix to coat all with it. Put the casserole in the oven for 4 minutes, uncovered. Take out and toss again, put back into the oven. This process will brown the flour coating.

Step 6. Remove and lower heat
Take the casserole out of the oven and turn the oven down to 325 degrees (I emphasize this as once I forgot to turn down the oven, then remembered later, oops!)

Step 7. Cook for 3-4 hours
Add the wine and stir, then add just enough stock to just cover the meat and vegetables. Then add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer on the stove, then cover and place in the 325-degree oven, on a lower rack. It will take 3 – 4 hours to cook, check from time to time to make sure it is very lightly simmering. It will be done when the meat is fork-tender.

Step 8. Prepare mushrooms and pearl onions
While the beef is cooking you can then prepare the mushrooms and pearl onions. For the mushrooms, heat about 3 tablespoons butter and 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saute pan and saute for about 8 minutes until they are brown. At first, they will soak up the butter and oil, but after a few minutes, the water content of the mushrooms will come out to brown them. For the onions, I warmed them up in some beef stock and let them simmer, then added about 2 tablespoons of butter and let them cook slowly until they brown slightly.

Step 9. Finishing touches
When the beef is done, strain it through a sieve into a saucepan. Put the meat back into the casserole and add the pearl onions and sauteed mushrooms to it. Simmer the sauce reducing slightly if it seems thin, if it is quite thick you can add some stock to thin it a bit. You want the sauce to coat a spoon. Once the sauce is to the consistency you want and you have tasted and added salt, to taste, add it to the meat.

As Julia always said, "Bon Appetite!"


Yield: 3-4 servings

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