Weekend Cooking: Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

Posted 8 March, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

I’m Weekend Cooking with Beth Fish Reads! It’s easily one of my favorite weekly memes. I’m cooking again and I find myself smitten with Smitten Kitchen! I prepared a delicious, deceptively easy stew that was both flavorful and filling.

My notes will be in this color everything else has been lifted neatly from the Smitten Kitchen blog.

Let’s get to it!

Recipe – Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

Adapted, barely, from Regina Schrambling via The NYT


A few notes: If you don’t eat pork, keep in mind that it’s used here a little bit as a background flavor but also as rendered fat to brown your meat in. Thus, if you’d like to skip it, just start with a tablespoon or two of butter or olive oil instead. The crisped bacon is never used in the dish (gasp!) but you’d better believe we sprinkled it over our salads. Do keep in mind that Dijon contains a fair amount of salt, as do cured pork products. The best way to keep the saltiness at bay is to use an unsalted beef stock and only lightly salt your meat before browning. If you don’t have Cognac, brandy is a good substitute. Schrambling calls for Pommery mustard in this dish, a extra-sharp mustard from Meaux, France based on an ancient recipe. I used a whole-grained Dijon instead, and recommend it if you, understandably, don’t live near a French grocery store. The recipe calls for 1/2 pound mushrooms but if you’re a mushroom fiend, as we are, I think you could easily use 3/4 pound or more. Finally, I entirely forgot to finish the dish with red wine and we didn’t miss what we didn’t know about. If you don’t have a bottle open, don’t fret it. This dish is good without it, too.

Serves 4 to 6; takes about 3 hours total

Ingredients

1/4 pound salt pork, pancetta or bacon, diced I used bacon.

1 large onion, finely diced
3 shallots, chopped 
4 tablespoons butter, as needed

2 pounds beef chuck, in 1-inch cubes I am lazy. I chose to use mysterious pre-cubed ‘stew meat’ from the beef section of the grocery store. Despite this questionable choice the meat was still fork-tender.

2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Cognac (see Note)

2 cups unsalted beef stock I couldn’t find an unsalted beef stock – instead I didn’t salt the beef at all before cooking it.

1/2 cup smooth Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons coarse Dijon or Pommery mustard (see Note)
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into half-moon slices

1/2 pound mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and quartered I used almost a full pound of pre-cut baby portabellas

1/4 cup red wine (see Note)

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 save for another use, like your salad, vegetables or, uh, snacking. 

Raise heat to medium-low, and add onion and shallots. Cook until softened but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large bowl.

If necessary, add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan to augment fat. I almost missed this step – I did need more butter in the pan to augment the fat. 

Dust beef cubes with flour, and season lightly with salt and more generously with 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 a bowl with onions. Repeat with remaining beef.

Add Cognac to the empty pan, and cook, stirring, until the bottom is deglazed and any crusted-on bits come loose. Add stock, smooth Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon coarse or Pommery mustard. Naturally, I have to screw up something in each recipe. I accidentally added all four tablespoons of coarse mustard here. When I realized what I did before whisking I fished out as much as I could and added them back at the end. I think this caused my dish to have a little less ‘bite.’ 

Whisk to blend, then return meat and onion mixture to pan. Lower heat, cover pan partway, and simmer gently until meat is very tender, about 1 1/4 hours.

Add carrots, and continue simmering for 40 minutes, or until slices are tender. As they cook, heat 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté mushrooms until browned and tender. Stir mushrooms into stew along with remaining mustard and red wine. 

Simmer 5 minutes, then taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

Final Thoughts
I served this over egg noodles as well. This stew, unlike my Bouef Bourguignonne,  was thick enough on it’s own. The flavor was excellent and pretty complex considering how few ‘flavoring’ ingredients are used. Throw away your crockpot recipes and make this instead. It wasn’t overly difficult or labor intensive. The cognac fumes that occur when deglazing the pan will make you almost instantly drunk, so keep kids out of the kitchen during this step. 😉 

I highly recommend this. Especially if you’re still suffering from winter. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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