French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and ParsnipsRainy Days and Mondays…

When the weather is as rainy as it has been the last week, I look to the things that warm me up. Usually, it’s something slow roasted or slow cooked in the crock pot. It could be pot roast or it could be a turkey breast but whatever the ingredients, it is a bowl full of warmth and comfort.

Last Sunday, while we contemplated lining the animals up two by two, I threw some beef chuck in the crock pot and made some tasty beef stew. And, it was the perfect answer to the wind and rain, especially served with warm crusty bread to sop it all up. Yum.

There is a multitude of recipes for beef stew you just have to decide which one is your favorite. That’s the hard part for me. Sometimes I want straight up stew with all that beef flavor. (Like my Batchelor Beef Stew.) Other times I like French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips and some red wine. And then there are the times when dark beer and onions make a great combo too. (Check out my Beef and Guinness Stew.) Depends on my mood…

So, this is the one I made this weekend. If you wish, it is easily done in the slow cooker. Just follow these directions. But instead of cooking in the Dutch oven, you put it all in a large crock pot on low for about 8 hours, or until the beef is falling apart tender.

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips
Serves 6

4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide pieces
1 3-1/2-pound beef chuck roast with fat and sinews removed, cut into 2- to 3-inch cubes
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 yellow onions or 1 Spanish onion, quartered and thinly sliced
6 shallots, thinly sliced
1 garlic head, halved horizontally, only loose papery peel removed
1 1/2 pounds carrots, trimmed, peeled, cut in half crosswise, and halved or quartered lengthwise (depending on the size of the carrot)
1/2 pound parsnips, trimmed, peeled, halved crosswise, and quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup cognac or brandy
1 750-ml bottle fruity red wine, whatever you have on hand
1 bouquet garni made from 2 thyme sprigs, 2 parsley sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, and the leaves from 1 celery stalk, all tied together with a dampened piece of cheesecloth

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat it the oven to 350º F.

Cook the bacon
Put a Dutch oven over medium heat, and toss in the bacon. Cook, stirring, just until the bacon browns, then transfer it to a bowl.

Brown the beef
Dry the beef between sheets of paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon of the grapeseed oil to the bacon fat in the pot, and warm it over medium-high heat. Next brown the beef in batches, on all sides while being careful not to crowd the pot. Cooking too many pieces at once will steam the beef. You want it nice and browned with good color on each piece. Transfer the browned meat to the bowl with the bacon, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Brown the onions
Pour off the oil in the pot, leaving any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and warm it over medium heat. And, add the onions and shallots, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring continuously until the onions soften (about 8 minutes).

Assemble the stew
Toss in the garlic, carrots, and parsnips, and give everything a few good turns to coat with oil. Pour in the brandy, turn up the heat, and stir well to loosen whatever may be clinging to the bottom of the pot. Let the brandy boil for a minute, then return the beef and bacon to the pot, pour in the wine, and toss in the bouquet garni. Once again, give everything a good stir.

When the wine comes to a boil, cover the pot tightly with a piece of aluminum foil and the lid. Slide the stew into the oven and allow it to braise undisturbed for 1 hour. (If using a crockpot, this is the point to transfer everything.)

Next, pull the pot out of the oven, remove the lid and foil, and stir everything up once. Make certain there is still just enough water to cover the ingredients. Re-cover the pot with the foil and lid, slip it back into the oven, and cook for another 1 1/2 hours (total cooking time is approximately 2 1/2 hours). At this point, the meat should be fork-tender. If it’s not, give it another 30 minutes or so in the oven.

Taste the sauce. For a more concentrated sauce, pour it into a saucepan, and reduce it on high heat. Taste for salt and pepper. Remove the bouquet garni and garlic. And, using a large serving spoon, skim off the surface fat.

And, serve the beef and vegetables moistened with the sauce in shallow soup bowls with a crusty piece of bread.

This stew can be kept in the refrigerator for about 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Instant Pot
You can use the crockpot function of your Instant Pot to make this recipe. And, if you want a quicker solution, assemble the stew in the Instant Pot. (You can also use the saute function to brown the beef and onions.) Cook the stew on high pressure for 40 minutes and allow the steam to release naturally.

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