If I had to put together a list of my top recipes, this would probably land on the podium. It’s a rich beef stew that’s perfect on cold rainy days. Or cool sunny days. Or pretty much any day.
We ate this recipe often in the winter growing up. It’s a recipe that can be made ahead of time as it freezes beautifully. In fact, I think it’s actually better to re-heat it a day (or week, or month) later. It was a staple for ski weekends, because it could go directly from the freezer to the stovetop to warm it up and serve over noodles.
While it may look like a lot at first, this is a fairly easy recipe if you look at it as an assembly line. If you chop everything ahead of time, it goes very smoothly. One thing to look after is the condition of the bottom of the pot. You should expect it to accumulate some browning, but make sure nothing is burning. If you suspect anything, turn down the heat. Most of that browning will come off when you add the veggies, but it doesn’t hurt to encourage it along by scraping the bottom of the pan as you saute.
One of the appeals of this recipe to me me as a kid was the flambe. What little kid doesn’t like fire? And what little kid hasn’t burned a house or two to the ground? Just me then?
Personally, I’m comfortable flambeing at home, but if you are not, just don’t light the match. Add the brandy with the wine, and don’t worry about the flames. If you DO want to play with fire, do so responsibly. Take a look at the notes that accompany the recipe.
Recipe adapted from Colorado Cache, a rather obscure title published by the Junior League of Denver – and brought to you now by the powers of the internet.
- 6 slices thick cut bacon (1 cup chopped)
- 3-3.5 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast trimmed of excess fat and gristle (or similar stew meat - you will want 3 lbs once you trim out the excess fat)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ tablespoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 3 cups sliced onions
- 6 medium carrots
- ½ cup cognac
- 3 cups red wine (traditionally a Burgundy - but you can also use another red with a full body)
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon. tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon. thyme
- 1 package frozen pearl onions
- Egg noodles or other starch for serving
- Slice the bacon crosswise into strips. They will look somewhat like fat matchsticks.
- In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is crispy. If the bacon starts to smoke, reduce the heat.
- While the bacon cooks down, mix the salt, pepper, and flour in a large ziplock type bag. Blot the beef cubes with paper towel to remove excess moisture and add the beef to the bag. Toss to combine and remove the beef to a plate.
- Once crispy, remove the bacon from the dutch oven and reserve. If you’re anything like me, have a family member or friend hide the bacon until you need it later so you don’t eat it all as you cook.
- In three to four batches, thoroughly brown the beef in the bacon fat. If you need more fat, add vegetable oil. Do NOT crowd the pan. Crowding the pan draws all the heat out of the dutch oven, making it hard to brown the meat. Take your time and make sure to brown the beef on all sides. Don’t worry about the brown bits on the bottom. This is what the French would call “fond," and it’ll help make the sauce. But look out for anything turning black on the bottom. That’s burning, and that’s not good.
- When the beef is nicely browned, remove to a plate and add the onions and carrots. As they cook down, they'll release steam that will soften the fond. Use a wooden spoon (or other stiff cooking utensil) to scrape off as much of this as you can. This is going to add a ton of flavor. Continue cooking until the vegetables are golden brown. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
- Once the vegetables are golden brown, carefully add the brandy and flambé the vegetables (see Notes/Hints below).
- Once the flames are out, add all the remaining ingredients except the egg noodles. Don’t forget the bacon and beef.
- Turn the heat to high and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Cover and put in the oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours. The meat should be fork tender.
- Serve over egg noodles or your starch of choice.
1. THE FLAMBE PROCEDURE COMES WITH INHERENT RISK. IT CAN BE PERFORMED SAFELY WITH SOME SIMPLE PRECAUTIONS. IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS STEP, SKIP IT AND SIMPLY ADD THE BRANDY IN WITH THE WINE. READY TO YUMBLE TAKES NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS.
2. Flambe prep: If you can find them, I'd recommend you watch the Shrimp and Grits and/or Bananas Foster episodes of Alton Brown's Good Eats. Not only is it a great show, but it covers a lot of the basics.
3. First and foremost, be careful, and don't be an idiot.
4. Second, have a fire extinguisher nearby (accidents DO happen, and you should always have one in the kitchen anyway).
5. Have the lid to your cooking vessel readily available. Should the flames become uncomfortably high, slap that lid on to smother the flame. DO NOT TRY AND PUT WATER ON THE FLAMES.
6. Add the liquor OFF THE HEAT. No open flame from the stove.
7. Use a flame stick or a long match to ignite.
8. Alcohol has a lower boiling temperature than the water in the cognac, so when it hits the hot pan, it will evaporate before the water. This vapor is what is flaming. This also means that the hotter the pan, and the longer you wait to ignite, the more alcohol is in the air, and the bigger the flames will go. I recommend pouring and then immediately igniting. Then you can bring the heat back on, and control the rate of evaporation by adjusting the heat.
- Arguably, this dish is better after a day or two in the fridge to let the flavors mingle.
- This dish freezes beautifully. When you reheat it, I’d recommend either in the microwave or over moderate heat on the stove.
Recipe adapted from Colorado Cache.