Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

by Hilary Gauntt on March 11, 2017

Regina Schrambling is a contributor to the New York Times, and brought this recipe to them in the dark days in 2001 following the attack on the World Trade Center. “Long before there were anti-depressants, ” she wrote, “there was stew”. She explains that comfort food is what someone cooks for you. Comfort cooking is what you do for yourself.

This is a recipe she has made every winter since she learned it in cooking school 18 years ago. I love how she describes the meditative and visceral experience of creating this stew…”Cooking is the most sensual activity a human being can engage in, in polite company. My stew involved smells (onions softening, Cognac reducing), touch (the chopping, the stirring) sound ( sizzle of beef cubes hitting hot fat) sight (carrot orange against the gold-brown of mustard and beef stock), and especially taste. Making it is a way to feel alive and engaged.”

Well are you ready to give this a try after that sales pitch? Make this when you have time to indulge all your senses, as it can’t really be rushed. But what a wonderful way to spend a wintery afternoon.

1/4 pound salt pork, dice (or pancetta or bacon)

1 large onion, finely diced

3 shallots, chopped

2 to 4 Tbs. butter, as needed

2 pounds beef chuck, in 1-inch cubes

2 Tbs. flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 Tbs. butter, as needed

1/2 cup Cognac (or Brandy, dry sherry)

2 cups beef stock

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

4 Tbs. Pommery mustard

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin half-moon slices

1/2 pound mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and quartered

1/4 cup red wine

Place salt pork in a Dutch oven or a large heavy kettle over low heat, and cook until fat is rendered. Remove solid pieces with a slotted spoon, and discard. Raise the heat, and add onion and shallots, Cook until softened but not browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large bowl.

If necessary, add 2 Tbs. butter to the pan to augment fat. Dust beef cubes with flour, and season with salt and pepper. Shake off excess flour, and place half the cubes in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, almost crusty, on all sides, then transfer to the bowl with the onions. Repeat with remaining beef.

Add Cognac to the empty pan, and cook, stirring, until the bottom is deglazed and the crust comes loose. Add stock, Dijon mustard and 1 Tbs. Pommery mustard. Whisk to blend, then return meat and onions mixture to pan. Lower heat, cover the pan and simmer gently until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Add the carrots, and continue simmering for 30 minutes, or until slices are tender. As they cook, heat 2 Tbs. butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and saute mushrooms until browned and tender.

Stir mushrooms into the stew along with remaining mustard and red wine. Simmer 5 minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot. 4 to 6 servings.

Note: I used bacon instead of salt pork and did NOT discard the delicious cooked pieces but saved them for breakfast. If you are worried there will be too strong a mustard flavor (I was) then cut back the amounts a bit. I also added more carrots and mushrooms than called for. Even toss in some cubed Yukon gold potatoes if you wish. Great the next day, maybe even better!

dijon stew

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