Saturday, May 19, 2007

Gascony Beef Stew

This stew will make you want to live again on a bitter, cold, gray day in Michigan in February (or March, or April, or May). I had misplaced the recipe, but found my Christmas folder in a half-hearted attempt at cleaning my desk. My husband likes to bake it, after it has been prepared on the stove top, in a covered cast-iron pan. Be very careful, though. There might be some leakage into your oven, and the lid might stick to the pan, so you must let it cool before you pry it off. It's also very heavy. Served over mashed potatoes, though, (the original recipe suggested egg noodles, but I like potatoes) this is the ultimate comfort food. (Stephanie, I hope you find this.)

Gascony Beef Stew

1/2 pound bacon, sliced

3 cups (about 3 medium) onions, chopped

3 cups (about 1 1/4 lbs.) carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 garlic cloves, bruised

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon sage

2 bay leaves, crumbled

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

6 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups white wine

1/4 cup brandy

3 cups beef broth

2 cans diced tomatoes

Cook bacon in skillet over moderate heat until crisp. Drain and crumble. In large bowl combine bacon with onions, carrots, garlic, thyme, sage, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Line bottom of 8 to 10 quart oven-proof casserole or Dutch oven with 1 cup vegetable mixture. Shake beef cubes in flour. layer half the beef over vegetables in casserole, placing cubes close together. Strew half the remaining vegetables over beef. Continue layering with remaining beef (adding all flour) and vegetables, and end with the vegetables.

Preheat oven to 325 F. pour wine, brandy, broth and tomatoes over stew. Add water, if necessary, to cover. Bring to a simmer on top of stove. Cover and place in oven; bake 3 hours. (Can be made ahead. Cool to room temperature; cover and freeze in freezer-proof container up to 4 weeks. Thaw at room temperature 4 hours. reheat in 350 F oven until bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours.) Makes 16 servings, about 435 calories each.