Boeuf Braisé aux Carrots

When I'm in the mood for a rustic meal, I go straight to my bookshelf and pull out French Feasts: 299 Traditional Recipes for Family Meals and Gatherings by Stéphane Reynaud. It's a big, heavy book that's filled with large photographs, whimsical drawings, and stories. What's great is that there's a photograph for every recipe—and that's exactly what makes this book such a source of inspiration. I also like how the recipes are written in a loose style, so you don't feel bad if you want to improvise. 

I chose to make boeuf braisé aux carrots upon returning home after a ten day stay in Mexico, when New York City was still on the coattails of Hurricane Sandy. I knew that it was way more than a #singlegirldinner portion, but there was comfort in knowing that this pot would last me a few days. Leftovers never really bothered me. Braised dishes and stews always seem to get better and better after each day anyhow. The beef in this dish became impossibly tender and melty, starting on Day 1.

Below is the recipe, taken from the book, word for word. My own notes are in italics.


Stewing beef.....................................2 pounds 4 ounces
Pork belly...........................................7 ounces
Carrots................................................6
Red wine.............................................1 cup
White wine.........................................1 cup
Onions................................................6
Garlic...................................................6 cloves
Celery stalks......................................4
Bouquet garni....................................1
Concentrated tomato purée............1 tablespoon
Olive oil

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1. Cut the meat into 1 1/2-inch cubes and brown the meat in a flameproof casserole dish along with the cubed pork belly and sliced onions. Deglaze the pan with the red and white wine, scraping up the bits on the bottom, and flambé.

Note: You'll probably have to brown the meat in batches. You don't want to crowd the pan. I wanted to follow this recipe as closely as possible, but I'd typically coat the beef chunks in flour before browning. If you don't have pork belly, you can try substituting with bacon, as I did. Also, I didn't flambé.

2. Add the crushed garlic, bouquet garni, cubed celery, and tomato purée to the beef. Cover with 4 cups of water and cook for 1 hour.

Note: I found that this was a lot of liquid that took forever to reduce. I told myself to try it with maybe 2 cups of water next time. I had to thicken it up a bit with some cornstarch.

3. Peel the carrots and slice them thickly on the diagonal. Add them to the casserole and cook an additional 45 minutes. Season and serve.

Note: I wouldn't have minded some more carrots! I used whole organic carrots, not the "baby carrots" that come packaged in plastic bags. The snipped chives were my own addition.

*I like to serve mine with potato purée, steamed rice, or a baguette. Topping it off with a dollop of horseradish creme fraiche makes it twice as nice.