Beef stew is the quintessential winter comfort food but I usually find it boring. I kept the classic vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and peas but ramped up the flavor of the stew by using boneless short ribs instead of the usual chuck, plus lots of full-bodied red wine and Cognac for the sauce. This is definitely the most satisfying beef stew I’ve ever made!
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4 ounces small-diced pancetta (see note)
3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut in 1½-inch chunks (4½ pounds on the bone)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Cognac or brandy
1 cup hearty red wine, such as a Côtes du Rhône or Chianti, divided
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups chopped fennel, trimmed and cored (1 large bulb)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, including the juices
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef broth, such as College Inn
1 pound carrots, scrubbed and cut ½ inch thick diagonally
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, 1-inch diced
10 ounces frozen peas
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Heat the oil in a large (11 to 12-inch) Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside.
Meanwhile, season the short ribs all over with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Brown half the meat in the
Dutch oven over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned on all sides. Transfer the meat to a bowl and brown the second batch. (Don’t cook them all in one batch or they won’t brown!) Transfer the second batch to the bowl and set aside.
Off the heat, add the Cognac and ¹⁄₃ cup of the wine to the pot, scraping up any browned bits, then simmer over medium heat for one minute. Add the onions and fennel and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Stir the tomatoes and tomato paste into the vegetables. Add the remaining ²⁄₃ cup of wine, the beef broth, the seared meat (and juices), 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and bake for 1¼ hours, checking occasionally to be sure the liquid is simmering.
Degrease the stew, if necessary. Stir in the carrots and potatoes, cover, and bake for 1 hour longer, until the vegetables and meat are very tender when tested with a fork. Just before serving, stir in the peas and pancetta, taste for seasonings, and serve hot in large, shallow bowls.
Note: Citterio makes a 4-ounce package of perfectly diced pancetta.
Make ahead: Reheat over medium-low heat, adding beef broth and a splash of red wine.
Recipe courtesy of MODERN COMFORT FOOD: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Copyright © 2020 by Ina Garten. Photography by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
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