No. 79: Dijon & Cognac Beef Stew

Sundays are for long, slow recipes. Those that take some extra care or a special ingredient. They're for being a bit fancy. Dressing up your usual stews or baked goods because you have the time.

This lovely stew from Smitten Kitchen checked off all those boxes. Plus, I felt like investing in a rich, flavorful meal to prolong our vacation before we jumped back into the raging river of work and the real world on Monday.

Ingredients

Serves 4 to 6
1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced
1 large onion, finely diced
3 shallots, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, as needed
2 pounds beef chuck, in 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Cognac or brandy*
2 cups unsalted beef stock
1/2 cup smooth Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons coarse Dijon mustard
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into half-moon slices
1/2 pound mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and quartered*
1/4 cup red wine

*We didn't have cognac or brandy on hand, so used wine for both. We also aren't huge mushroom fans, so swapped in eggplant which has a similar meaty texture.

To make

Place bacon in a Dutch oven over low heat, and cook until fat is rendered.

Pancetta

Remove solid pieces with a slotted spoon, and save for later use in a salad or other recipe. Raise heat to medium-low, and add onion and shallots. Cook until softened but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large bowl.

If necessary, add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan to augment fat. Dust beef cubes with flour, and season lightly with salt and more generously with pepper.

Dusted beef

Shake off excess flour, and place half the cubes in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, almost crusty, on all sides, then transfer to a bowl with onions. Repeat with remaining beef.

Add Cognac (or wine, or brandy) to the empty pan, and cook, stirring, until the bottom is deglazed and any crusted-on bits come loose. Add stock, smooth Dijon mustard and whisk to blend, then return meat and onion mixture to pan. Lower heat, cover pan partway, and simmer gently until meat is very tender, about 1 1/4 hours.

Add carrots, and continue simmering for 40 minutes, or until slices are tender.

With carrots

As they cook, heat 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté mushrooms until browned and tender. Stir mushrooms into stew along with remaining mustard and red wine. Simmer 5 minutes, then taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

The results

This was so fancy and rich tasting. The long, slow simmer time also rendered the beef perfectly tender.

Final

Because a fancy stew deserves a fancy side, I added Triscuits to our bowls. So daring, I know. Crusty artisan bread or egg noodles would also be great compliments.

I added in the diced eggplant at the same time as the carrots. The meaty flavor and texture worked well as a sub for the mushrooms. You could also add more carrot, pearl onions or parsnips in place of fungi.

Enjoy this sophisticated dish before spring arrives! It will make these last few weeks of winter more bearable. Promise!

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