It was in my Mother’s kitchen that my great love affair with food and entertaining first began. She was, and still is, an amazing cook. Gathering inspiration from her many magazine subscriptions, cookbooks and recipes swaps with friends and relatives.
No, there was no Google or Food Network back then and the only Chefs that I can recall on television at the time were Julia Child and Justin Wilson (Comedic Cajun Chef).
My mother enjoyed cutting out recipes and entertaining ideas from her favorite magazines (Sunset, Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Woman’s Day) and pasting them in a big scrapbook to have for a later day. It was kind of a like a “Pinterest” of the the seventies.
Back then folks did a lot of entertaining in the home and our home was no exception. From Board Games or Card Game Nights to Dinner parties, Birthdays, Holidays, Sunday Supper, BBq’s, Patio Picnics. They were not always at our house, my parents and their friends would take turns hosting.
I remember one party at our house in particular, it was a “create your own stew party”. There were about four couples plus my parents and they each had to create their own unique stew with ingredients that my mother provided and I think that they each had to bring an ingredient from a list that was given to them.
I remember watching them in anticipation (I got to be a taste taster) as each couple whipped up their grand masterpiece. Spoons were clinking in pots, meat was sizzling, amazing aromas filled the air and laughter filled the room, they were having so much fun! Someone even added some red wine to their pot of goodness!
I don’t know where that bottle came from, it must have been on the list of ingredients for someone to bring, I had never seen wine in the house before.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to a kid, they had each completed their stews and ladled them into bowls to be tasted and one would be deemed the winner of the stew making challenge. Each one them was so unique and different and all of them were delicious! But that one with the red wine was the most amazing thing had ever tasted.
It was so rich and hearty and had such a complexity of flavors, I had never tasted anything like that before. It was the winner in my book! I think it did end up winning the contest as well. To this day I will not make a beef stew or pot roast without adding that coveted red wine! It makes all the difference in the world!
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- 8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon diced
- 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound carrots sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
- 2 yellow onions sliced
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic 2 cloves
- 1/2 cup Cognac
- 1 750 ml. bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
- 1 can 2 cups beef broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 pound frozen whole onions
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded caps thickly sliced
- Country bread or Sour Dough toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley optional
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.
Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley.