6-ounce chunk of bacon (unsalted and unsmoked. so basically pork fat)
9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole, 3 inches deep (large size)
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
3-4 pounds lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
1 lb carrot cut into chunks
1 large sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups of a full-bodied young red wine, or a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 small white pearl onions, brown-braised in stock.
1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered, sautéed in butter
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Cut bacon into lardoons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long).
- Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is very hot, before you sauté the beef.
- Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.
- In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.
- Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the 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.
- Stir in the wine and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered.
- Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs.
- Bring to a 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 it easily.
- While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.
- (I skip this next part, choosing to make the gravy right in the Dutch Oven with the stew.) When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
- Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
- If it is too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon.
- Taste carefully for the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.
- For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice and decorated with parsley.
- For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.