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The French way to make beef stew!
Beef Stew The French Way
If you’re ready to up the ante on your beef stew, this is a recipe you’re going to love.
I won’t fib and say it’s a “dump-go-forget” type of recipe. This one does involve a bit more work than the usual, but once you taste the results I think you’ll agree the couple of extra steps is worth it.
There’s even a small secret that will improve the flavor of any stew you make. It’s interesting to note that the one small additional ingredient is responsible for the great taste it imparts even though it’s flavor by itself isn’t detectable.
The Meat Is Important
I know you’re thinking that this is a real no-brainer, but ordinary pre-cut stew beef you buy in your supermarket won’t work as well here.
What you’re looking for in this rustic stew is larger pieces. Funny enough, Julia Child always seemed to recommend top round (I believe this is called “topside” in UK). I had a top round roast in the freezer that I wanted to use, so I cut that up into largish pieces about 2 1/2-3-inches. Other good choices are a thick chuck roast or bottom round (silverside). Again, cutting them up yourself into big chunks.
Not only do the larger pieces look much more appetizing, they are easier to turn during browning. And yes, browning is necessary here.
I chose to cook my potatoes, carrots and turnips separately and not in the stew itself. One reason is that I didn’t want them to get mushy and yep, it looks better too.
The Special Flavor
In the French tradition, this stew uses a bouquet garni to flavor the juice. All that is is an assortment of herbs tied up in cheesecloth. If you don’t have cheesecloth handy, then a white paper towel will do. You need to contain the herbs and spices so they don’t actually go into the juice.
The bouquet garni contains fresh parsley–you can use the stems and reserve the leaves for something else–a bay leaf, some thyme and 2-3 whole cloves. Yes, cloves!!! And that’s the secret to the wonderful flavor of this stew. You don’t actually get a clovey taste. In fact, you couldn’t detect it’s flavor, but it imparts something so wonderful to the flavor. I might add that I’m not a lover of cloves so I was a bit skeptical when I saw the original recipe in one of Julia Childs’ books. However, I tried it and I’m glad I did. The flavor is outstanding.
French Beef Stew
- 3 lbs top or bottom round cut into large chunks
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 tsp oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup sliced onions
- 1 cup carrots
- 1 1/2 tbs oil
- 1-3 cups red wine
- 1 1/2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup chopped tomato
- 5 fresh parsley stems
- 3 whole peppercorns
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2-3 whole cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbs cornstarch
- 2 tbs dry white vermouth
- 3-4 cooked turnips cut in quarters
- 5-6 small cooked whole potatoes
- 1 cup cooked baby carrots
- Heat the 1 tbs butter and 1 tsp oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Brown the meat on all sides. You may have to do this in shifts. Place meat on a plate and set aside.
- Heat a large (5-6qt/L) dutch/French oven over medium heat. Add the 1 1/2 tbs oil, sliced onions and carrots. Saute until onions are translucent. Add the meat to the dutch oven, then pour in the red wine, chopped tomatoes and enough beef stock so the meat is almost covered (it’s ok if it’s not completely covered).
- Wrap the parsley stems, peppercorns, fresh thyme, cloves and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth. Tie to secure and drop into the liquid in the pot. Bring to the simmer, cover and cook over low heat for 2-3 hours, or until meat is tender.
- Place a colander in a large bowl and dump the contents of the dutch oven into the colander, reserving juice. Discard the onions, carrots and bouquet garni (herbs in the cheesecloth).
- Place the meat back in the dutch oven and add strained juice. Mix the cornstarch and wine/vermouth until smooth. Mix into the hot juice and stir over low heat until thickened. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the cooked turnips, potatoes and carrots and heat through.