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Hearty Beef Stew



3 Tbsp. olive or avocado oil

4 oz. bacon, diced (3-4 strips)

3 lbs. boneless short ribs, brisket or stew beef, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

(if using short ribs, that’s about 4 ½ lbs. bone in.) 

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup Cognac or brandy

1 cup hearty red wine

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups chopped fennel, trimmed and cored (1 large bulb)

2 Tbsp. minced garlic, about 6 cloves

1 400 ml. tin (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, including juices 

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 cups Lepp’s beef broth, or make with Major beef base

1 lb. carrots, scrubbed and cut into ½ thick pieces

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces

280 gm. (10 oz) frozen peas


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until browned. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  

Meanwhile, season the meat all over with 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Put ½ of the meat cubes in the pan, and sauté until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and brown the second batch. Don’t do them all once or the meat will steam rather than brown.  

Remove the meat.  

Off the heat, add brandy and ⅓ cup red wine, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer for one minute. Add the onions and fennel and sauté, stirring occasionally for 7-8 minutes, until the veggies are tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  

Stir the tomatoes and tomato paste into the vegetables. Add remaining wine, beef broth, seared meat and juices, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and bake for 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours, checking once or twice to make sure it’s still simmering.  

Stir in the carrots and potatoes, cover and bake for another hour, until meat and veggies are tender. If the surface looks too greasy, lay a few pieces of paper towel over top for a minute to absorb the grease, discard the paper towel. Just before serving, stir in the bacon and peas. 

One of my most trusted chefs is Ina Garten, so when she says she’s ramped up a classic recipe, I take notice. In this adaption of her beef stew, she calls for boneless short ribs instead of the usual chuck. This produces an even more flavourful broth, but it is more work to debone the ribs. I turned to our butcher team for an alternative, and they suggested using brisket. As brisket requires a slow braising method and is located next to the short ribs on the beef, I trusted that it would work. Turns out, they were right! It was much easier to cut as there isn’t a bone to cut around. Also, the long grain of brisket means you’re going to end up with a very tender piece of meat after braising for a few hours. As with any braised stew, it tastes even  better the second day after the flavours have had time to fully develop. If you can prepare it the day before, that means you can enjoy a relaxing dinner the next day with no effort. All you need is a salad to balance out the richness. Gently reheat over medium-low heat, and add another splash of red wine or beef broth. I’d suggest serving with a salad using fresh oranges and thinly sliced fennel as it mirrors the fennel flavour in the stew. The dressing in this salad recipe is perfect. Don’t forget a loaf of crusty sourdough bread from Lepp’s Daily Market to sop up all those delicious juices.

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