I’m just not in a snow frame of mind. Since we live mid-Atlantic, we typically don’t see too much of the white stuff. Usually it’s just enough to build one miniature-sized snow man (who melts a day or so later) and you spend time sipping homemade hot chocolate while you put together a 1000-piece puzzle.
While I love the thought of the homemade hot chocolate, I’ve not so in love with the idea of snow. Those things are out of our control of course, so in the meantime we’ll continue to enjoy these sunny, bright days we’ve had all week.
Although it’s been pretty mild this week, I managed to make this braised beef with bacon and fresh thyme and the whole meal came together quite simply on a weeknight. There are a few steps, so it may be better suited to a Sunday dinner, but it was easy and we thoroughly enjoyed it. If you’re expecting snow too, then this may be just the dish to keep you warm.
To begin, pull out your Dutch oven and set it over medium heat, adding 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. When hot, add 2 large shallots, minced and cook until they are translucent. Add 8 ounces of baby portabellas, sliced and cook for 7 more minutes. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of flour over the mushrooms, stirring well. Add 1 cup of shiraz and 2 cups beef broth and stir.
In a 12-inch skillet cook 3 pounds of beef tips or beef stew meat in 2 tbsp of bacon fat. Brown the meat for 4-5 minutes turning so that all sides are browned. Do this in batches if necessary, so that the meat isn’t crowded.
Remove the beef and add it to the Dutch oven with the mushroom-shallot mixture. Add the remaining 1 cup of Shiraz to the skillet, increasing the heat to high. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Transfer the reduced wine to the Dutch oven and add 4 slices of cooked, chopped bacon, 2 bay leaves and 4-5 springs of fresh thyme to the pot. Over low heat, let the stew simmer with the lid on for 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasonings with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If you’ve done any braising lately, I’d love to hear what you’ve prepared. It’s a pretty simple technique with a big pay-off in the finished dish. I’ll be back this weekend to share a recipe for quick bread.
Braised Beef with Bacon and Thyme
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large shallots, minced
1/2 baby Portabellas, sliced
3 tbsp flour
2 C red wine (I used a shiraz)
2 C beef broth
4 thick-cut slices of bacon, cooked and bacon fat reserved
3 lbs stew beef or beef tips, cut into bite-size pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme, additional for garnish (optional)
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Set a Dutch oven over medium heat, adding the vegetable oil. When hot, add the shallots and cook until they are translucent. Add the sliced portabella mushrooms, cooking for 7 more minutes or until the moisture coming out of the mushrooms begins to evaporate. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir. Add 1 cup of wine and the beef broth, stirring well. Reduce heat to low.
In a 12-inch skillet cook the beef in the reserved bacon fat. Brown the meat for 4-5 minutes turning so that all sides are browned. Do this in batches if necessary, so that the meat isn’t crowded and browns properly.
Remove the beef and add it to the Dutch oven with the mushroom-shallot mixture. Add the remaining cup of wine to the skillet, increasing the heat to high. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Let the wine reduce by almost half. Transfer the reduced wine to the Dutch oven, adding the chopped bacon, bay leaves and fresh thyme to the pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasonings with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Remove the bay leaves. Garnish each serving with 1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme.