I'm lucky to have in my possession a 1966 edition of Julia Child's Mastering The Art Of French Cooking and one of my favorite recipes therein is her classic Boeuf Bourguignon. It's the quintessential winter stew and perfect for a snowy weekend. I've tweaked the recipe and made it my own by adding potatoes and creating an extra thick gravy. I cook the entire meal in my trusty Le Creuset cast iron pot. This recipe is a step-by-step process, offering you an opportunity to practice passionate attention. Be sure to buy a big loaf of bread because you're going to want to wipe the bowl clean.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Sear 1 1/2 - 2 lbs of your choice of meat (cut into 1 inch cubes, patted dry with paper towels so it will brown nicely). I've found that the meat won't brown as well if the pan is overcrowded. Sear in batches with a tiny bit of olive oil. You'll know when the sides are browned because they will unstick from the bottom of the pan, making themselves available to be turned. Transfer your browned beef into a bowl by the stove.
Sauté a chopped onion in the same pan until soft (approximately 10 minutes). Add carrots and potatoes (peeled and cut into one inch pieces). Sauté for 10-15 minutes.
Return the beef to the pan. Add 1 t of salt and 1/4 t of pepper. Sprinkle in 2 T of flour and lightly toss to coat the beef. Place your uncovered pan in the oven and cook for 4 minutes. Stir the pot and cook for another 4 minutes. Julia writes, "This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust."
Turn your oven down to 325 degrees.
Now the fun part! Add 3 cups of "full-bodied young red wine". The wine decision can feel daunting. I've made this recipe with various bottles and then one day I just happened to grab what I thought was a "cheap" red wine and was surprised to discover that it created the most flavorful stew to date! I'm now eternally devoted to Radical Red from The Organic Wine Works, a sulfite-free choice from my local liquor store. Add enough beef broth (I prefer Imagine's Organic) to just barely submerge the contents of your stew. Bring to a simmer and add 1 crumbled bay leaf, 1/2 t of thyme and 2 crushed garlic cloves.
Put the lid on the pot and cook for three hours. Your house will smell like stew heaven.
I usually add a beurre manié to thicken the sauce before I serve. Mix 2 T flour with 2 T butter to create a paste and add to the cooked stew, which will thicken almost immediately. You can add more beurre manié until you reach your desired consistency.