Beef stew is one of those dishes that belongs in everyone’s repertoire. Toss the beef in flour. Brown the beef. Add stock and veggies (if you so choose). Simmer until veggies are soft. Serve.
There is plenty that you can do to change up the flow of things. A little red wine to thin it out or some tomato paste to thicken it. Some Spanish paprika for smoke, or Hungarian paprika for heat. For this dinner, I opted to use the Smitten Kitchen’s combination of Dijon mustard and cognac. Well, not quite cognac.
Cognac is more than just a type of brandy. Like Champagne and Burgundy, Cognac is strictly defined. It must be made with white grapes from the Cognac region of France, fermented with yeasts native to this region, and aged in limousin oak casks. Otherwise, you’re just drinking expensive brandy. And don’t worry, the French have a governing body for such matters: the Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac. My liquor store’s cognac selection was limited and pricey, so I went with a Paul Masson V.S.O.P. brandy. I forgot how much I enjoyed drinking brandy, keeping a snifter nearby for…snifting while I cooked.
WHAT WORKED: Varying mustards. Use the smooth Dijon mustard but mix things up with a different coarse-grain mustard, like Zatarain’s Creole mustard or Coleman’s. I used the stone-ground Inglehoffer mustard and it complemented the tangy wine-based Dijon nicely. Also, rather than buying stew beef at the store, I cut down a chuck roast on my own.
WHAT DIDN’T: My expectations while cooking. After you add the mustard, your meat and gravy will take on a dark yellow color. Ignore it. It goes away with simmering and ends in a light shade of brown.
EASE OF PREPARATION: Medium.
BEST FOR: A make-ahead dinner for midweek or a semi-elegant weekend dinner.
SERVE WITH: A softer Italian or French bread and egg noodles.
Dijon & Brandy Beef Stew
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced fine
- 3 shallots, chopped finely
- 2 lbs. beef chuck, into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp. pan searing flour (I make mine at a ratio of 1 cup all-purpose white flour, 1 tbsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. ground white pepper)
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 3 cups unsalted beef stock
- 1/2 cup smooth Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup coarse-grain mustard
- 1/2 to 3/4 lbs. white button mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and quartered
- 1/4 cup full-bodied red wine
- 12 to 16 oz. egg noodles (the wider and broader, the better) cooked
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. When the oil shimmers, reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and shallot. Saute the onions until softened and translucent.
While the onions cook, add the beef cubes to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with flour. Toss to coat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to the pan, shaking off excess flour that did not stick. Brown on all sides, cooking about 15 minutes. Remove the beef cubes from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Pour brandy into the pan and use a heavy wooden spoon to deglaze the pan and scrape up any browned-on bits. Add the stock and mustards, using a flat whisk to blend. Return the meat to the pan, reduce the burner heat to low, cover pan partially and cook 1 1/2 hours.
Stir in the mushrooms and cook an additional 20 to 30 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft. Adjust flavors with salt and pepper, and serve hot over egg noodles.