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Classic Beef Bourguignon (French Beef Stew)

Serves 4 to 6

This is an absolutely delicious beef stew recipe, appropriate for a special occasion or elegant gourmet dinner. Admittedly, it takes a lot of prep work, but is basically easy and well worth the effort. The good news is that, as with most stews, it can be made ahead and reheated, which enhances the flavor even more. Traditionally, the stew would be made with Burgundy wine since it originated in that region of France. However, any good dry red wine will work just as well. For those times when you need a recipe that is a little less labor intensive, see my mother's Easy Beef Bourguignon in the similar and related recipes links. The results are not the same, but still very good.

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 325° F. Sauté bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Season beef cubes generously with salt and pepper. Coat with all of the flour. Working in two batches, brown beef in the bacon grease over high heat, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer meat to large bowl using slotted spoon or tongs. Add onions and carrots to the same pot and sauté over medium-high heat until light brown, about 8 minutes, adding a small amount of olive oil if needed. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with beef. (You will have a lot of very dark, crusty bits in the bottom of the pan. That is good. Just do not let them burn.)

Add 1/2-cup of the beef broth and all of the Cognac to the pot. (If you are cooking over a gas flame, remove the pot from the burner before adding the cognac.) Boil until almost reduced to a glaze, about 8 minutes, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom. Return the meat, vegetables and their juices to pot. Add the wine, mushrooms, thyme, brown sugar, tomato paste, remaining 1 cup of broth and bacon. Bring to a boil. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook until beef is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.

Remove the beef and vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon. Skim excess fat off the liquid. Boil the liquid until reduced to about 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Taste sauce for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Return the beef and vegetables to the pot. (Can be prepared up to one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Reheat over a low burner or return to a warm oven until needed.

Notes: Beef Bourguignon is typically served with buttered noodles, but rice or potatoes are perfectly acceptable if that is your preference.