This is my all-time favourite stew and one of my favourite classical French dishes to make. Eating it is pure comfort and making it well, will teach you all the foundations of drawing flavour from the simplest of ingredients.
500g button mushrooms
1 kg chuck steak, cut into large chunks (about 3 bites worth)
750ml red wine
250g carrots, peeled , cut into large chunks
1 large stick celery, cut into large chunks
200g brown onions, peeled, cut into large chunks
15 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
200g bacon rashers, diced
1/3 cup (80ml) brandy
25g soft butter mashed with 2 tablespoons of plain flour to form a paste
salt & black pepper
1 kg potatoes, peeled, quartered
1 teaspoon truffle paste or a few drops of truffle oil (optional)
salt & black pepper
1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley for garnish
To prepare the mushrooms, hit a large stainless steel frypan with a good few good glugs of olive oil, over a high heat. Cover the surface with a single layer of mushrooms and toss from time to time to keep the caramelisation even, adding more oil if needed. When the mushrooms are a deep golden brown, transfer them to a medium mixing bowl. Repeat until all mushrooms are browned and set aside.
To prepare the beef, add a few good glugs of olive oil to a large stainless steel frypan, over a high heat. Wait until the pan is smoking a little, before adding the beef pieces. Season well with salt and black pepper, then seal all sides of the pieces of meat until nicely browned. Transfer them to a medium mixing bowl. Repeat until all the meat is caramelised and set aside. Before popping your frypan into the sink, pour in half the red wine and bring to a simmer. With a wooden spoon scrape the bottom to help lift all the caramelisation, then turn the heat off.
To make the mirepoix, throw the carrots, celery and onions into a food processor and pulse until you have a medium – fine chop. Transfer this into a Dutch oven with the thyme, bay leaves, bacon, butter and a glug of olive oil. Cook over a medium heat, stirring continuously until the ingredients are softened and fragrant but not coloured.
Add the beef, the wine in the frypan and remaining wine to the Dutch oven and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally so the bottom does not catch. Remove the cover, add the mushrooms and brandy and simmer for another 30 – 60 minutes or until the beef is very tender (it shouldn’t fall apart completely but separate easily when pushed with a wooden spoon). Add the butter and flour mixture to the stew, 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it thickens only slightly – you don’t want it to be gluggy. Taste and season.
To make the mash, boil the potatoes until very tender. While hot, pass through a moulis, potato ricer or a sieve. Heat the butter and milk in a small saucepan until the butter is just melted. Add to the potatoes and whisk until it reaches a smooth dolloping texture. Add the truffle paste (or truffle oil, if using), taste and season.
To serve, place a good dollop of the mash on a plate or shallow bowl, a large scoop of the beef and sauce, then garnish with plenty of parsley.
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