There is beef stew, and then there is beef cognac stew. I promise you there is a difference. It’s because the former is about throwing carrots, celery, and potatoes into a pot with browned chunks of beef and letting them cook down. Although tasty, that type of beef stew is not a form of cooking requiring much finesse. But here, simply by adding cognac, beef cognac stew becomes the epitome of delectable elegance. Prepare this recipe with high quality diced sirloin, thickly diced bacon, and enough shallots to sink a ship. Alliums like shallots, leeks, and onions are essential to a good, hearty stew; they are what thicken a sauce. And then, break out the cognac. It needs to be decent cognac and you can’t substitute it with cooking wine and call it good. One spoonful and you’ll understand what the difference is. Do it. You so deserve this stew.
Beef Cognac Stew Recipe
1/4 pound thick cut bacon, diced
3 pounds good quality beef sirloin, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
1 1/2 sweet yellow onions, finely diced
1 cup shallots, diced
1 stick unsalted butter, as needed
3/4 cup Cognac
3 cups beef stock
Note: I recommend Kitchen Basics Beef Stock for its all-natural, savory flavor. It’s also available as a low-salt version.
3/4 cup Dijon mustard
6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick discs
2 tablespoons rosemary leaves, minced
1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1/2 cup dry red wine
1. Place bacon in large Dutch oven or heavy stock pot and render bacon until it is slightly browned and crisped. Remove bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and reserve. Increase heat to medium low and add onions and shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly translucent but not browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to bowl.
2. Toss beef pieces with flour. Salt and pepper to desired level.
3. Melt 3 T butter in pot over medium-high heat. Brown beef in batches until well-browned. Add to bowl with onions. If necessary, add more butter to make sure beef doesn’t burn.
4. Caution: Off heat, add Cognac to pot, standing back in case of flames. Allow Cognac to burn off; any flames will subside as the alcohol burns off. Turn heat back on to medium-low and bring liquid in pot to boil, scraping browned bits off pan bottom.
5. Pour in stock and Dijon mustard, whisking to blend. Return meat and onion mixture to the pot, along with reserved bacon and rosemary. Bring liquid to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and partially cover pot. Simmer until meat is tender, about 1.5 hours.
6. Add wine and carrots to pot, simmering partially covered for another 45 minutes to an hour, until beef is very tender.
7. While beef is simmering, melt 2 T butter in skillet over medium heat. When froth subsides, add mushrooms to skillet and sauté until browned and mushroom juices have reabsorbed.
8. Add mushrooms to stew, stirring gently to incorporate. If stew isn’t thickened, add 1-2 T butter and swirl. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve stew in bowls alongside mashed potatoes, if desired. Or serve separately with crusty bread.