Denouement Beef Stew

December 20, 2010

That impossibly distant day is today. In July, the outcome seemed so uncertain. Today is my 100th new recipe. The denouement. It has been a fun and rewarding journey, and I’ve eaten so much great food in 2010 (too much really, as I’ve gained 10 pounds). Of course, a special thanks to Christopher Kimball himself, who has spend 20-years creating and perfecting recipes, and without whom this year would not have been special. For all those who have supported my efforts throughout the year, I am grateful. To my friends who tried my chocolate donuts (hockey pucks) and feigned compliments for my tasteless carnitas; I apologize. My greatest joy in 2010 was to see my two sons try everything; all 100 recipes; to see them grow and appreciate my efforts. Over the weekend I invited friends to help mark my milestone of my 100th new recipe; this 5-star Beef Stew with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions.

My 100th new recipe in 2010.

This beef stew is very similar to the 11-hour slow-cooker Boeuf Bourguignon that I made in January, but this is ready in just 3 hours. The main difference is the lack of carrots and tomato paste, but also it uses flour as a thickener. The Boeuf Bourguignon uses minute tapioca (which is a CI favorite in their modern stews), so I substituted it here as a thickener. I served it over Fluffy Mashed Potatoes, which were steamed rather than boiled. After about 10 minutes of steaming, the potatoes are rinsed under cold water to remove any surface starch.  Finally, I served it with Rosemary Focaccia and a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Overall, everyone gave everything 5-stars. The beef was very tender and the stew was just as rich as my other stews. It lacked a little complexity when compared to the Boeuf Bourguignon. The Fluffy Mashed Potatoes were a hit as well. In fact, one guest could talk about nothing else other than the potatoes.


  1. The biggest issue was that I needed the dutch oven for both recipes. I made the stew, then put it in another pot while I made the potatoes. Because I was also making Pepperoni Pan Pizza for the kids (who ate before the adults) there was only a minor delay.
  2. Ouch. During the transfer from stew to potatoes I momentarily forgot that the lid to the dutch oven was 300-degrees. I grabbed it, and gave myself a second-degree burn.
  3. I used Eastern White potatoes rather than the Yukon Gold that CI recommends; the Yukon Gold have a slightly sweet taste that I don’t like. But I love their technique to yield such fluffy potatoes.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $27.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to the Beef Stew with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions recipe. The recipe was designed for 3 pounds of beef, so I altered the recipe and made it as follows:

6-oz bacon
4 pounds chuck roast
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons minute tapioca
2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1-1/3 teaspoon dried thyme
1-1/3 pound white mushrooms
10-oz frozen pearl onions (sauce discarded)
1/3 cup parsley

  1. Dice bacon into small pieces, then cook in dutch oven over medium heat until browned and crisp; about 7 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate, reserving bacon fat separately.
  2. Cut roast into 1-1/2-inch cubes and remove any hard pieces of fat, but don’t over trim the meat. The soft fat will break down and add flavor. Pat beef cubes dry and place in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat over medium-high heat in dutch oven; my four pounds of beef required browning beef in three separate batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch, adding a tablespoon of bacon fat as necessary. Remove meat and set aside on a plate.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Coarsely chopped onions, which should yield about 2 cups, then saute them in dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; continue to saute about 30 more seconds. The original recipe from 1996 told me to stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Instead, I used an equal amount of minute tapioca which works great as a thickener (see Texas Chili). Add wine and deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, and bacon bits; then bring to a simmer. Add meat and return to simmer, then cover and place in 300-degree oven for a total of about 2 hours.
  4. If using frozen pearl onions prepare them according to package instructions. Unfortunately, I could only find Birds-eye which come in a cream sauce, so I separated and discarded the sauce. Brush the mushrooms clean and cut them into quarters. Heat 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Saute mushrooms until browned; 6 minutes. Remove mushrooms from skillet, then add frozen pearl onions. Saute until lightly browned; about 3 minutes. Set mushrooms and onions aside.
  5. After 1-1/2 hours in the oven the meat will be almost tender, add the mushrooms and pearl onions to the stew. Cover the stew and return it to oven. Cook until meat and pearl onions are tender; another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop parsley.
  6. Remove from oven and stir in parsley. Add more salt and pepper according to taste.
  7. Serve over buttered egg noodles, boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to the Fluffy Mashed Potatoes Recipe. I doubled the recipe. Here is the version as I made it:

4 lbs Eastern White potatoes (CI recommends Yukon Golds)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1 inch chunks. Rinse in colander to remove any surface starch.
  2. Add just enough water to Dutch oven so that water will reach the bottom of colander, but don’t add the colander just yet.
  3. Turn heat to high and bring water to boil. Then place metal colander (and potatoes) and reduce heat to medium-high.
  4. Cover and cook potatoes for 10 minutes. Transfer colander to sink and rinse potatoes under cold water until no longer hot; about 2 minutes. This will remove starch and prevent the potatoes from becoming gluey.
  5. Return colander and potatoes to pot, cover, and continue to cook until potatoes are soft; about 45 minutes longer (The original recipe says that will take only 10 to 15 minutes for a paring knife to meet little resistance; I’m not sure why there’s such a big discrepancy).
  6. Pour off water from Dutch oven, and add butter, which will melt with the residual heat. Run potatoes in batches through ricer set over Dutch oven.
  7. Add salt and stir in milk using rubber spatula.
  8. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste.

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