During the winter season I like to prepare rustic peasant-style food from the French countryside. These hearty dishes are made with staples from the land such as potatoes, root vegetables, bitter winter greens, cured meats and cheese. My favorite is Beef Bourguignon, a stew consisting of a tough cut of beef slow-cooked in Burgundy wine until falling-apart tender, mingling with carrots, onions and mushrooms in a rich, savory stock. It's a delicious one-pot meal perfect for a cold night. Try to make it one day in advance, so the flavors can develop overnight. It you have a big appetite, serve it with Potato Gratin - preferably in front of a roaring fire.
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 lbs. beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2" chunks
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup cognac
4 large carrots
1 large yellow onion, cut in large chunks
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 - 750 ml. bottle full-bodied red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 - 6 ounce can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme
10 oz. (300 g.) pearl onions, peeled
1/2 pound white mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof pan with lid or Dutch-oven. Season beef all over with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add beef to pan in one layer and brown on all sides. Transfer to a bowl. Add cognac to pan and deglaze pan over medium-high heat, scraping up bits. Allow to reduce by half. Pour cognac over beef and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Coarsely chop 2 carrots. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same pan. Add chopped carrots, onion and garlic. Sauté 3 minutes over medium heat. Add beef, wine, stock, tomato paste, and thyme. (Beef should be covered by the wine and stock. If not, add more wine or stock to cover.) Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and cook 2 minutes. Cover and place in oven. Bake until meat is very tender 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
About 30 minutes before beef is done, cut remaining carrots in 1/2" slices. Steam or blanch carrots until crisp tender; drain. Sauté mushrooms and onions in a skillet with one tablespoon olive oil until light golden brown.
Remove beef from oven. Strain liquid from stew into a saucepan. Separate meat from vegetables and discard vegetables. Boil liquid until sauce is reduced by 1/2 and has a sauce consistency, skimming fat from surface. Add sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce back over beef. Add carrots, mushrooms and onions to stock. Simmer 15 minutes. Serve.
Beef bourguignon can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Remove solidified fat from surface before reheating. Reheat over medium-low heat on stovetop, or in a 325 F. oven.