The holidays are over. There’s no gathering of friends and family, no piles of wrapped presents and candy, or cookies in every shape, flavor and size. Today, my son had to once again had to wake up to a buzzing alarm clock, make his bed, pack a lunch and brush his teeth before noon. The next significant break isn’t until mid April, which to a 6th grader may as well be measured in light years and the temperature is in the single digits. Droopy dog looks downright gleeful compared to my little sad sack.
Contrary to the saddest boy on the planet, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. I’m ready to welcome back our routine, get back on the elliptical, and not come home with five pounds of butter every time I go to the grocery store. We’re going to have a few more kale salads for dinner and I’m definitely going back to a daily dose of steel cut oats for breakfast.
That said, there is still room for some hearty comfort meals in our diet. And that’s not a want, but a need, given the frigid temperature and biting wind. To me there is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of stew. Stew with a rich broth, tender chunks of meat and veg, and deep flavors developed over a long, slow simmer on the stove. My Guiness braised beef stew is one of my most popular recipes on the blog and today’s recipe is sure to give it a run for its money.
This is my riff on classic Beef Bourguignon, beef browned in bacon drippings and simmered until tender with mushrooms and carrots in a rich red wine sauce. I skip the pearl onions, swap the bacon for little chunks of pancetta and jazz up the sauce with a dash of this and a splash of that. Instead of cooking potatoes in the pot with the beef like a typical beef stew, I serve the Beef Bourguignon over a scoop of rustic mashed potatoes (leave the skins on and use a masher instead of a ricer) with a sprinkle of fresh herbs.
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I’m hopeful that a bowl of Beef Bourguignon will ease my son’s winter blues and bring a little color back to his cheeks. After all, eating cozily by a fire is the silver lining to short days and chilly nights. And if a bowl of pure comfort doesn’t do the trick, it’s only about 170 days ’til summer vacation. But who’s counting…
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- 4 oz pancetta, diced
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2½ lbs beef stew meat, cut into 2 inch chunks
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp anchovy paste
- 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 750 ml bottle good (drinkable) red wine (cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir)
- 1½ cups beef stock
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp unsweetened chocolate
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (divided)
- 1 lb baby carrots
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 14 oz mixed mushrooms (cremini/oyster/shitake)
- Kosher salt and pepper
- *rustic mashed potatoes for servings
- Set a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp and then remove from the pan.
- Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Toss the stew meat with the flour and add in a single layer to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Don’t overcrowd the pan or the meat will steam instead of brown. Do this in two batches if necessary.
- Once the meat is well browned, remove from the pan and add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Add additional oil if needed and adjust the temperature so the browned bits on the bottom of the pan do not burn.
- Saute the onion and garlic until translucent and then stir in the tomato paste, anchovy paste and brown sugar.
- Slowly add the wine, scraping all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, chocolate, thyme sprigs, half the parsley, and return the meat and pancetta to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to very low. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Add the carrots and simmer, covered, for another hour.
- In a separate nonstick saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until browned. Reserve.
- Remove the lid from the dutch oven and add the sautéed mushrooms and remaining parsley. Remove the thyme sprigs or stems and discard. Increase the heat to med/low and simmer uncovered until the beef is super tender, about another 20-30 mins.
- Serve over rustic mashed potatoes if desired.