I’ve been making a modified version of the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe each winter for a few years and it never disappoints. It’s best to prepare this over the weekend and always tastes better if you serve it a day or two later. Just be sure to clear out enough space in your refrigerator for the giant pot once it has cooked and cooled.
While this requires more ingredients and is a bit more work than my usual recipe, it is worth it. This recipe will feed 4-6 people. Ingredients include:
8-12 oz of cubed Pancetta
2 1/2 lbs cubed chuck beef
1 lbs of carrots thickly sliced
1 lbs of mushrooms (stems removed thickly sliced)
1 lbs of frozen pearl onions
2 sweet onions (I like Vidalia)
4 garlic cloves minced
4 tbsp of butter
1-2 tbsp of tomato paste
3 tbsp of flour
Sourdough Bread sliced and grilled
1 bottle of dry red wine
2 cups (8oz) beef broth
1/2 cup of Cognac
Drizzle of olive oil
1/2 cup of parsley chopped
Generous portion of dried thyme
Ground black pepper and salt
Step 1: The prep work takes about 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, pull out all the ingredients, chop your veggies and using a paper towel, pat dry the beef cubes and place them on a tray with a paper towel. If you skip this step they won’t sear correctly.
Step 2: Drizzle a little olive oil into a large pan that can hold all the ingredients above (remember you’re going to use an entire bottle of wine!) and can go into your oven. Once the oil is hot (I keep this on medium high heat), add the cubed Pancetta and stir for approximately 5-7 minutes then scoop onto a plate (try not to scoop out the liquid) and don’t worry about bits being stuck to pan.
Step 3: Lightly salt the beef on your tray and add these into the pan (a few at a time) and turn to sear on all sides. You only want the outside lightly browned (1-2 minutes) and you’ll need space to rotate the meat. Then remove and place on the same plate as the Pancetta and sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper.
Step 4: Add carrots, sweet onions and a dash of salt. Let this cook in the oil and fat from the meat for about 5 minutes until they start to brown then throw in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Step 5: This is the fun part! Add the Cognac and light on fire to burn off the alcohol. After the flames are gone, add the Pancetta, beef, bottle of wine and beef broth. Make sure the liquid just covers the meat and vegetables. Also add the tomato paste and dried thyme, cover and bring to a simmer.
Step 6: Bring to a simmer then place it in the oven with a tight fitting lid for ~75-90 minutes.
Step 7: Make a quick roux just before you take the pan out of the oven. This is an easy and important step to thicken the stew. Combine 2 tbsp of butter and flour. First, add the butter in a pan over low heat and once melted stir in the flour (you can whisk it with your fork). Then pour it into the pot along with the 1lb bag of frozen pearl onions, cover the pot and place it on the stove for ~15 on medium low heat. When done, the meat should be soft enough to cut with a fork.
This may sound like a lot of work but it’s delicious and after making it once, it is pretty easy to follow. There is a lot of food so you’ll likely have plenty of leftovers (and the leftovers always taste better).
One other note: I like to use Ina’s suggestion of getting thick slices of sourdough bread toasted in the oven to serve as the base for this stew. It is a lighter and easier option than making mashed potatoes but Sergio loves mashed potatoes so that is what I’ve shown at the top of the post.