Winter is indeed the ideal time for one-pot meals, as the current issue of A la Carte attests.
In my house, the one-dish dinner sees us through all four seasons, particularly in the past three years or so. Anyone who has children, a busy career, full slate of activities or just isn’t all that inclined to spend time in the kitchen sees the value in throwing an assortment of ingredients into a pot and allowing heat and time to do most of the work.
This week’s food-section story offered recipes for black-bean soup, choucroute garni and lamb shanks with vegetables (see the e-edition). To that, I’ll add the quintessential beef stew: boeuf bourguignon.
This French classic is, of course, the dish that famously secured Julia Child’s first cookbook contract, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” But even the most celebrated recipe can gain still more appeal in the hands of the right cook.
Among them is Leslie Brenner, writer for the Dallas Morning News. One of her recent stories dissected the process of beef bourguignon that incorporates beef shank with a fattier cut than the lean stewing beef that Child originally used. There’s also no need to fuss over dicing vegetables into bite-sized pieces, she says. Ditto for the beef prior to browning it.
You also could skip the fuss of preparing the traditional garnish of mushrooms sautéed with lardons of bacon. Eliminating that step makes this truly a one-dish dinner. But because the stew can be prepared a day ahead and reheated, saving the mushrooms’ manufacture until just before serving is entirely appropriate.
Tribune News Service
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into cubes of about 1 1/2 inches (more or less)
1 3/4 pound beef shank (including bone), meat cut off bone (reserve bone) and cut into (more or less) 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional if necessary to brown meat
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into big chunks
3 carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into big chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
1 bottle red wine
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Bouquet garni: 4-5 branches fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves, 10 peppercorns and a small handful of parsley tied into cheesecloth
6 ounces slab bacon, cut into lardons (rectangular bars about one inch long and 3/8-inch wide)
1 pound white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and cut in half or quarters, depending on their size (if they’re very small, you can leave them whole)
1 pound pearl onions or small boiling onions, peeled and any large ones cut in half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
Heat oven to 300 F. In a large bowl, combine the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Add the cubes of beef and toss well to coat them.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven until hot but not smoking. Add as many beef cubes as fit comfortably in a single layer. Brown them for about 3 minutes on first side, then start turning them and searing another side for about another 2 minutes. They won’t be browned on all sides, but that’s good (about 5 minutes total is what you want) — transfer them to a bowl and brown remaining meat, along with the shank bone, adding a little more olive oil if necessary.
Once all meat is browned, add the carrots, celery, onion chunks and garlic; saute them over medium heat for 6 or 7 minutes, until onions start to soften. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the red wine and deglaze by scraping bits of browned meat off bottom of Dutch oven. Add remaining wine, 1 cup of the chicken broth and beef chunks and bone; stir to combine. Meat should be nearly covered by liquid; if not, add a little more chicken broth. Add bouquet garni, bring liquid to a boil over high heat, turn heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Cover Dutch oven and place it in preheated oven and let it braise for 1 hour and 45 minutes, stirring it now and then and adding more chicken broth if necessary, until meat is starting to be very tender. Remove from oven and let it cool a bit while you prepare garnishes.
Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan or skillet, add the lardons and cook them over medium heat until fat is rendered and they’re browned on edges. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a small bowl. Add the mushrooms to fat and cook them over medium heat, adding a little olive oil if they look too dry, until they start to release their water, for about 12 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer mushrooms into a bowl. Add the pearl onions, shake them around in pan (adding a little olive oil if necessary) and cook them for 15 minutes or so, shaking pan now and then, until they’re golden. Remove from heat and reserve.
Skim as much fat as you can from top of braised beef. Use tongs to remove beef chunks to a bowl and reserve; discard shank bone and bouquet garni. Strain braising liquid into a bowl, pressing on vegetables to release as much liquid as possible, and discard (or snack on!) vegetables.
Wash Dutch oven, then place beef cubes and braising liquid back in it. Add lardons, mushrooms, pearl onions remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, black pepper to taste; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over high heat on stove, then transfer, partially covered, to oven and let it braise for another half hour. Taste and adjust seasoning.
If you’re going to serve it right away and feel stew needs thickening (I usually don’t do this, and you certainly won’t need to do it if you’re going to chill it overnight), bring it back to a simmer over high heat and cook it rapidly for 5 or 10 minutes, uncovered, to thicken it.
Serve immediately, garnished with the chopped parsley, or refrigerate overnight, then reheat on stove. Serve with buttered noodles, potatoes or rice.
Makes 6 servings.