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 ounces un-smoked, unsalted, nitrate-free bacon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 pounds lean stewing beef, such as beef chuck (grass-fed/grass-finished), cut into 2- to 3-inch 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 garlic, mashed
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt to taste
- 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven
- Preheat oven to 325℉. Cut the bacon into lardons (1 by ¼ inch strips). Add the lardons and the oil to the Dutch oven and brown over medium heat on the stove lightly to render out the fat.
- Remove the lardons, leaving the melted fat in the Dutch oven and adjust the heat to medium high. When almost smoking, add the beef and brown a few pieces at a time so as not to crowd the pan, turning beef frequently to browns all sides. Remove the beef to a plate and repeat as necessary with the remaining beef.
- Pour the fat out of pan, pour in the red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the flavorful brown bits. Return the beef and the lardons to the Dutch oven, add enough beef stock to 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 occasionally to make certain the cooking liquid covers the beef, adding more as needed.
- 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 pound fresh mushrooms
- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter or ghee
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 18 to 24 pearl or small white onions (you can purchase these peeled)
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Filtered water
- Trim the mushroom stems. Place the mushroom caps and stems a large bowl of cold water, swish about for a moment to gently rinse them, drain in a colander, and dry on a towel. Cut the caps into quarters and the stems on the bias.
- Heat the oil and butter in a skillet on medium-high heat until the butter/ghee foam begins to subside, add the mushrooms and toss over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes to brown 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 to add to the beef stew sauce just before serving.
- 5 to 6 large carrots, scrubbed, cut in half lengthwise, and cut again into sticks
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375℉. Toss carrots with the olive oil, a few good pinches of sea salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
- Arrange in in a single layer on a large baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until fork tender.
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.