Each fall, I set aside a weekend afternoon to cook this dish. The red wine in it helps to tenderize the beef to a soft, almost melting texture. It also provides an incredibly fragrant, rich flavor. The savory root vegetables and earthy mushrooms are perfect complements. This dish is best if made a day ahead of time and the mushrooms added during the gentle reheating time.
• 2 slices thick-cut, lightly smoked bacon, diced
• 2 pounds well-marbled boneless beef chuck, fat trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces and patted dry
• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 yellow onion, diced
• 1 carrot or parsnip, peeled and sliced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 3 cups pinot noir, plus a little more to supplement the liquid
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• 1/4 pound small white or brown mushrooms
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Place a Dutch oven over medium-low heat and add the bacon. Cook, occasionally stirring, until golden, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a large bowl. Sprinkle the beef pieces evenly with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1⁄8 teaspoon of the pepper. Working in batches, add the beef to the pot with the bacon fat and cook over medium heat, occasionally stirring, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. As each batch is browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the bowl holding the bacon. If the pot seems dry, add a tablespoon of olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute until well blended; the flour will help thicken the stew as it cooks. Gradually pour in the wine, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the beef, bacon and any meat juices in the bowl, the bay leaf, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the remaining pepper, and stir to blend. Cover the pot, place it in the oven and cook until the beef is tender, for about 1 hour.
At this point, you can allow the stew to cool, refrigerate overnight and complete the recipe the next day.
Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining olive oil. When the oil appears to shimmer, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to high, sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated. The mushrooms will brown in about 5 minutes. Stir the mushrooms into the stew. Re-cover and continue to cook the stew until the beef is very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 20 to 30 minutes. Check periodically to make sure the meat is covered by liquid and add more wine, 1/2 cup at a time if needed.
Remove from the oven and let the stew stand, covered, for about 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf. When the oven has cooled slightly, place individual shallow bowls inside the oven to warm. Then, taste the stew; if you feel it tastes dull, stir in a little more salt or pepper until the flavors are nicely balanced. Spoon the stew into the warmed bowls and top with the parsley, dividing equally. Serve right away.
From “Williams-Sonoma Collection: Soups and Stews” by Maren Caruso (Simon & Schuster)