This stew is all about wine – both in the stock, and, of course as an accompaniment. The general rule for cooking with wine is to choose a wine you would like to drink when adding it to food. It doesn’t have to be a pricey bottle, but it should definitely be quaffable. We love Les Vignerons de Mancey Bourgogne Pinot Noir, both for using in this recipe and sipping along with the final dish. Ideally, start this stew a day ahead of serving. Not only does the flavor improve with time, it allows the fat to rise to the top when it cools. The next day, lift off the solidified fat from the surface before you reheat the stew, and you will be left with a silky and deeply flavorful stock.
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, meat cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cognac
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (750-ml) bottle full-bodied red wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock
4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, ends trimmed, halved or quartered if large
1 to 2 medium carrots, peeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
8 ounces pearl onions, peeled (optional)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the beef to the pan in one layer, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat until all of the beef is browned.
Add the cognac to the pot and deglaze, stirring up any brown bits. Reduce by half, and then pour the cognac over the reserved beef.
Add 1 tablespoon oil, the carrots, onion, and garlic to the pot and sauté over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften without browning, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the beef and cognac to the pot. Add the wine, stock, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring every hour or so.
Place a sieve over a large saucepan. Carefully pour the stew into the sieve and strain the liquid into the saucepan. Separate the chunks of meat from the vegetables and set the meat aside. Press down on the remaining vegetables in the sieve to extract as much juice into the drained liquid as possible and then discard the mashed vegetables.
Boil the liquid until the sauce is reduced by about 1/3 and slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. As the sauce boils, skim the fat from the surface. (If you are making the stew one day in advance, you may skip this step, since the fat will be removed after refrigeration.)
Stir in the sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the beef to the sauce. (At this point the stew may be made one day in advance. Cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight. One hour before serving, remove from the refrigerator and discard any collected fat from the surface of the stew.)
Prepare the vegetables: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, lightly season with salt, and sauté until light golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet, and then add the carrots and onions, if using, and sauté until bright in color and crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms.
Add the vegetables to the stew and simmer over medium heat until the stew is hot and the vegetables are tender. Ladle the stew into warm bowls and serve.
Lynda Balslev is an award winning writer, recipe developer, and cookbook author currently based in the San Francisco Bay area. She studied cooking in Paris and remained in Europe for 16 years, while living in Switzerland, England, and Denmark, where she learned that the best way to immerse oneself in a new culture was at the kitchen table. When she is not writing about food and wine through the lens of the travel, she writes about travel and culture through the lens of food and wine. Either way, it’s a win-win, and she looks forward to her next trip.