Because I understand your time is valuable, let me give you an advanced disclaimer: If you clicked on this post in hopes of finding a quick meal involving little work or prep time, you should probably stop reading now and look elsewhere. Go on. I promise, I won't be offended.
Anyone left? I hope so. I hope that everyone makes this dish at least once, no matter how pressed for time you may be. Yes, you have to blot your meat dry and saute your mushrooms in small batches and strain things and move this into that pot and then back again, but you know what? The aroma alone is worth it, and the flavors from such familiar ingredients are stunning, yet comforting. I prefer to make this a day in advance, as the flavors will improve overnight.
6 oz. chunk of bacon, rind removed and bacon cut into lardons (sticks 1/4" thick and 1 1/2" long) 1 Tbsp. olive oil 3 lbs. lean stewing beef, cut into 2" cubes and patted dry 1 sliced carrot 1 sliced onion 1 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. pepper 2 Tbsp. flour 3 cups of a full bodied, young red wine 2-3 cups brown beef stock (homemade) 1 Tbsp. tomato paste 2 cloves mashed garlic 1/2 tsp. thyme 1 crumbled bay leaf 18-24 small white onions, brown- braised in stock (recipe below) 1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms, sauteed in butter (recipe below) parsley sprigs
1. In a medium saucepan, simmer bacon rind and bacon in 6 cups of water for 10 minutes; drain and dry, set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a 9-10" fireproof casserole (at leas 3" deep), saute the bacon in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes over moderate heat until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a side dish.
3. Saute the beef a few pieces at a time in the hot bacon fat until browned on all sides. Add the beef to the bacon, then brown the carrots and onions in the bacon fat. Pour out the sauteing fat, if any is left over.
4. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef and vegetables with flour. Set casserole, uncovered, in the middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust. Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
5. Stir in the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove, then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces easily.
6. While the beef cooks, prepare the onions and mushrooms (below). Set aside until needed.
7. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash our the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
8. Skim the fat off the sauce (I put my sauce in the refrigerator for a couple of hours while I ran errands and then just removed the hardened fat that had risen to the top). Simmer sauce for a minute or two. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. If too thin, boil down rapidly; if too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of stock. Taste carefully for seasoning, then pour over meat and vegetables.
9. Cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in the casserole.
Onions Brown-braised in Stock
18-24 peeled white onions (about 1" in diameter) 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter 1 1/2 Tbsp. oil 1/2 cup brown beef stock A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp thyme, tied up in cheesecloth
Heat the butter and oil in skillet until bubbling, then add the onions and saute over moderate heat for about ten minutes, rolling the onions so they can brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break skins.
Pour in the liquid, season to taste, then add herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet. Set aside until needed. Mushrooms sauteed in butter
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, whole if small, quartered if large 1 Tbsp. oil 2 Tbsp. butter
Place a skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as the butter foam has begun to subside, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4-5 minutes. During their saute, the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2-3 minutes, the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat. (Do not overcrowd the mushrooms in the pan! Saute in batches, or they will not brown properly). These may be cooked in advance and then reheated when needed.