lovers! i hope you are enjoying the holidays with your loved ones? as this is an (unsurprisingly) long recipe, you might not want to listen to more of my rants. well, lovers, it's just this delicious, rich, decadent, warming, wintery, red winey stew and you, now (after a day worth of cooking, haha). absolutely make the caramelized crispy potatoes, even if they sound posh. they're heaven. maybe my favorite potato dish, ever.
recipe inspired by julia child
1.5 kg lean stew beef, cut into 4 cm cubes
salt and pepper and flour
1 onion, quarters
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 piece celeriac, roughly chopped
1 piece leek, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves
4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 liter red wine, young and full bodied
3/4 liters (home made) beef stock
20 small white onions
500 g small brown mushrooms
1 cup more wine
before we start, you will need a large casserole / dutch oven (mine is a le creuset, hehe), but also, if it's oval (like mine) and you haven't got an oval hot plate, we will need to make this in the oven (yes, you heard correctly, the oven). meaning: you will need a large saucepan, too.
and another note: you know how it looks like the boeuf bourguignon is something that's just thrown together into one pot? well, it's not, actually. the secret is to prepare everything separately, i.e. the beef meat, the onions and the mushrooms. yeah, it sucks, but it's going to end up being so much better. let's do this!
for the meat: preheat the oven to 160 c / 350 f. heat frying butter in the casserole / large frying pan until almost smoking. dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. season each piece of beef with salt and pepper, and dust with some flour. put beef into the hot frying pan, a few pieces at a time, don't overcrowd the pan, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides (do not lift or remove beef before it starts to lift from the pan on it's own). put it aside.
in the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables (onion, carrots, leeks, celeriac, garlic) together with the tomato paste. let brown nicely. add the herbs and cloves and most of the red wine; bring to a simmer on the stove top and let the wine reduce a little.
now put the vegs with the wine as well as the fried meat pieces in the casserole, add the rest of the wine and the beef stock. the meat should be covered in liquid. cover with the lid, and braise in the oven slowly, for 2.5 to 3 hours.
now, while the beef is cooking, on to the small onions: heat water in a large saucepan. blanch the whole onions - with the skins on - for 2 minutes, drain and cool in ice cold water. put on a pair of gloves and squeeze the onions out of their skins. pat dry. heat a little butter with a little olive oil until bubbling in a skillet. add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. be careful not to break their skins. add some of the wine! yeah. season with salt and pepper to taste. cover and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. set onions aside.
for the onions, heat some more butter and oil in a frying pan, now fry the mushrooms until nice and brown. season with salt and set aside.
back to the meat: after the meat has braised long enough in the oven, remove the casserole. now you need to get rid of the vega and just keep the meat and the sauce. to do that, pick out every piece of meat with a pair of tongs; put aside. drain the rest, and catch the sauce with a large frying pan. discard the vegs. now let the red wine sauce reduce for and thicken for about 30 minutes. it needs to be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. if too thin, boil it down rapidly. if too thick, mix in a few more tablespoons of stock. taste carefully for seasoning (after it's reudced). stir in some cold butter cubes for a nice glossiness. pour sauce back in the casserole over meat. add the fried onions and mushrooms. set aside until used; i.e. you can prepare everything ahead up to here! yay!
note: when cooled completely, the sauce turns very thick, almost rubber-like, solid, that's because of the grease. don't worry! tender reheating will liquify the sauce again.
half an hour before you need the meat, cover the casserole and put on the stove top, reheating everything on the lowest heat level. stir occasionally, but very carefully so. careful, don't bring it to a boil, it just needs to come to simmer, maximum.
to serve, arrange stew (balanced amount of meat, onions, mushrooms and sauce) on a plate. decorate with thyme if you want. and serve with the crispy potatoes (recipe as follows:).
caramelized crispy potatoes with dried prunes
recipe adapted from yotam ottolenghi
1kg floury potatoes
1/2 cup rapeseed oil
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 cups dried whole prunes, stones removed
preheat the oven to 220c (450f). peel the potatoes and quarter the large ones and only half the smaller ones. put them in a large saucepan filled with water immediately, to prevent discoloration. season the water with salt. bring to a boil. boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, until almost but not completely tender. drain, and put back in the saucepan to "de-steam" (ahem). toss and shake to roughen the edges up a bit - this will help achieve the desired crunchy skin.
put the rapeseed oil fat in a roasting tray and heat in the oven for a couple of minutes, until smoking. tip in the potatoes and use metal tongs to roll them around in the hot fat. return the tray to the oven and cook for 50 to 60 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and crunchy on the outside, and soft in the middle. while they are cooking, turn them over from time to time to make sure they colour evenly. once the potatoes are almost ready, take the tray out of the oven and carefully remove the excess fat. add the prunes, and stir gently. return to the oven for five minutes.
during this time, make the caramel. put the sugar in a heavy-based pan and place over a low heat. without stirring, watch the sugar as it turns a rich, caramel colour. keep your eyes on the sugar at all times because it can easily catch and burn. the moment it reaches the desired colour, remove from the heat. quickly pour the water into the caramel to stop it from cooking any more, then return to the heat and stir to eliminate any lumps (this is annoying, as it might take more minutes than you would have thought). before serving, stir the caramel into the potatoes and prunes. transfer to a bowl or directly onto the plates and eat at once.