Keep in mind - stew improves with time. Nice idea to make a day or two in advance of serving. Easier on hostess too.
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 pounds lean stew beef, such as chuck, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- Olive oil
- 1 bottle nice red wine, cote de rhone a good choice
- Several sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into nice big rounds, about 1 inch
- 6 ounces thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 pounds pearl or small cipollini onions, peeled
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 pounds button or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
Whisk together flour and thyme in a shallow bowl. Season well with several generous pinches of salt and lots of black pepper. Stir to combine. Rinse stew meat under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Working in batches, dredge meat in flour, shaking off excess - you want the meat to be nicely coated - no heavy soggy patches. You will probably have remaining flour at end of process. Discard this. Heat enough olive oil to create a nice gloss on bottom of heavy skillet - cast iron best. Test pan for readiness by flicking a bit of flour in hot oil. It should sizzle immediately. You are looking for middle ground - sizzling but not smoking. Carefully place meat - forming a single layer (no crowding) in pan. Cook until golden brown on all sides. Here is a trick - meat should easily release from pan when ready. If you get resistance - probably not brown enough. Transfer browned meat to a large dutch oven. Repeat process until all the meat is browned. Deglaze the pan with a splash of wine between every few batches. The bits that stick to the pan are magic so make sure to scrap them up and add to dutch oven - do not allow to burn. It may be necessary to wash out pan once during process and start fresh. Patience key to dishes success.
Heat oven to 300. When all the meat is browned and in dutch oven add remaining red wine, leaves from a few sprigs fresh thyme, sliced garlic, bay leaves and carrots. Add enough water that ingredients are just covered. If you are feeling decadent you can replace some or all of this water with another bottle of wine. I do.
Set dutch oven over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover and transfer to hot oven. Tidy up and rest a bit. Return skillet to medium low heat. Add bacon and cook until bacon is crisp and fat rendered. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and a bit more fresh thyme. Cook until onions take on a little color and start to soften. Transfer onions and bacon into dutch oven. If feeling game - deglaze skillet with wine and add cooked on bits to pan - an extra step but worth it and actually helps with cleaning. Stew will now cook for about 3 hours. About 1 hours before serving (or the next day if you have removed stew from heat, cooled and refrigerated over night and are getting into party mode) prepare to cook mushrooms. Working in two batches - melt half the butter over medium heat in skillet. Add mushrooms and season well with salt and pepper. Mushrooms should brown, release juices and then shrink in size. Add cooked mushrooms to dutch oven. Repeat with remaining mushrooms. Option - deglaze pan again here.
Allow mushrooms to simmer with beef for about 45 minutes. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper and serve with mashed potatoes and salad. It is a project! X