BEEF BOURGUIGNON

Sometimes a deeply soothing dish is one we deem perfect for a special occasion. There’s nothing fancy about chicken and dumplings or pot roast, but if it’s your favorite thing to eat, you want it for your birthday, right? That’s kind of how beef bourguignon came to be the go-to dish when my husband and I are celebrating something for just the two of us. It’s been my favorite for as long as I can remember, years ago when I first started cooking Julia Child’s recipes and bought my first Dutch oven. When Marshall and I began dating, I treated him to this classic French stew for our first New Year’s Eve together. Since then, we’ve made it for Valentine’s Day and on other special evenings. There are few pots of goodness more satisfying in winter, especially if enjoyed with a nice bottle of red burgundy alongside. My favorite way to enjoy beef bourguignon is ladled over toasted planks of fresh French baguette, while Marshall’s is with egg noodles — but it’s every bit as good with mashed buttery potatoes or roasted new potatoes, too. We’ll often serve with petite green peas or green salad, lightly dressed in classic French vinaigrette. Be sure to share it all with someone you love.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ pound smoked bacon, diced

2 pounds beef chuck, cubed

Salt and pepper, to taste

5 carrots, roughly chopped

3 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 yellow onions, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

½ cup sherry or brandy

1 (750 mL) bottle dry red wine

2 cups beef stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with string

2 bay leaves

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature, divided use

3 tablespoons flour

1 pound frozen pearl onions

1 pound crimini or shiitake mushrooms, sliced

½ cup chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Toasted French baguette, egg noodles, or potatoes, for serving

In a Dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium heat and cook bacon for 7 to 8 minutes or till almost crisp. Transfer to a plate.

Add cubed beef to pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear meat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side and transfer to plate with bacon. (Don’t crowd the pot with meat; uou may need to do this in batches.)

Heat oven to 250 degrees.

Add carrots, onions, and celery to the pot and saute for about 10 minutes, till vegetables begin to soften. Add garlic and stir 1 minute longer. Pour sherry or brandy into pot, stir once and carefully flame the mixture with a match (this burns off the alcohol). When flame subsides, transfer bacon and beef into the pot, add wine and just enough beef stock to cover the ingredients. Stir in tomato paste, thyme bundle, and bay leaves. Lower heat to simmer the pot, cover, and place pot in oven for 1 ½ hours or till meat is very tender.

Transfer pot back to stove top. Mix half the butter in a small bowl with flour, then add this mixture to the pot. Stir in frozen onions. In a saucepan, brown mushrooms in remaining butter for 5 to 7 minutes, or just until tender. Add mushrooms to pot, adjust seasonings and bring the mixture to a quick bowl, then reduce to simmer for another 20 minutes. Discard thyme bundle and bay leaves.

Serve garnished with chopped Italian parsley.

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