Spring Forward Stew, Beef, Feast
As March continues to roar here in the Northeast, I find myself impatient for the promise of spring. At this time of year, I am increasingly tired of produce that has been shipped north from warmer climates, stale from time spent in transport. And while I may be dreaming of the first tender leaves of spring lettuce, the crunch and sweetness of new carrots, and the refreshing taste of young cucumbers, I remind myself that there is still much to be enjoyed by eating “winter food”. One of my favorites is a deconstructed beef stew. With cooking inspiration coming from none other than the queen of cooking herself—Julia Child—I recently set out to make a meal that would satisfy my yearning for comfort food, while also passing the nutritionists’ litmus test. If the rave reviews from guests at a recent dinner party are any indication, I think I nailed it!
Deconstructed Beef Stew (Boeuf Bourguignon)
Adapted from Julia Child, The French Cookbook
- 6 oz un-smoked, unsalted, nitrate-free bacon
- Olive oil
- 3 lb. lean stewing beef, such as beef chuck (grass fed/grass finished), cut into 2 to 3 “ chunks and dried on paper towels.
- 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine such as Macon, Burgundy, or Mountain Red
- 2 cups beef broth or beef bone broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 to 3 cloves mashed garlic
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt to taste
- 5-6 Qt. Dutch oven
- Preheat over to 325o. Cut the bacon into 1 by ¼ “ sticks; these are called lardons. Brown the lardons lightly in a Dutch oven with a little oil, to render out the fat; this you will use for browning the beef.
- Remove the lardons from the Dutch oven and adjust heat to moderately high. When almost smoking, brown the beef, a few pieces at a time so as not to crowd the pan, turning beef frequently to browns all sides. Place the beef, as it is browned, in a casserole or baking dish.
- Pour browning fat out of skillet, pour in the red wine and scrape up into it all the flavorful brown bacon bits. Return the beef and the lardons to the Dutch oven, add enough beef stock to almost cover the meat; stir in the rest of the ingredients and bring casserole to simmer on top of the stove.
- Cover the casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers slowly for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or longer, until beef is tender when pierced with a fork. Check on occasion to make certain the cooking liquid covers the beef, adding more if indicated.
Optional: You can also finish the stew on the stove top, maintaining a temperature to support a gentle simmer, and watching carefully so that the cooking liquid remains just over the meat: you may have to add additional beef stock.
Onion and Mushroom Garniture
Do these while the beef is simmering, or at any convenient time.
- About 1 lb. fresh mushrooms
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter or ghee
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 18 to 24 small white onions (1” in diameter, you can purchase these peeled)
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- ½ teaspoon. salt
- Trim mushroom stems, drop mushrooms in a large basin of cold water, swish about for a moment, lift out into a colander, and dry on a towel. Cut the caps into quarters and the stems on the bias. Heat oil and butter in a skillet until butter/ghee foam begins to subside, add the mushrooms and toss over high heat for about 3 or 4 minutes to brown the mushrooms very lightly. Remove to a side dish until needed, and then toss with the salt.
- Drop the onions into boiling water, bring rapidly back to boil for several seconds to loosen the skins. Drain. Peel carefully so as not to disturb the onion layers. To prevent onions from bursting while cooking, pierce a cross ¼ inch deep in the root ends. Or, skip this step and purchase pre-peeled pearl onions! Place in one layer in a heavy saucepan; add the ghee and salt and enough water to come halfway up, cover and simmer very slowly for 20 to 30 minutes, or until onions are tender. Set aside, saving cooking liquid.
- 5-6 large carrots, scrubbed, cut in half lengthwise, and cut again into sticks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 375° Toss cut up carrots with the olive oil, a few good pinches of sea salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
- Roast in a single layer, on a large baking sheet, for 30 minutes
Remove beef from cooking liquid, cover and set aside. Reduce the remaining liquid in the Dutch oven, until you have about 2 ½ cups cooking liquid. If there is any cooking liquid remaining from the onions, add this to the beef sauce.
You can serve each component of the meal separately, or you can toss the mushrooms, onions, and carrots into the stewed beef and mix the sauce into the stew. Either way, this stew is sure to be a comfort and might even make you wish March could keep spring at bay a little longer.