I, like most people of my generation, spend an absurd amount of time on Instagram. Very very rarely does that spur me to action (beyond sending memes to friends). This was one of those times.
I spotted a photo of this Dijon and Cognac beef stew on the New York Times Food section’s Instagram and immediately went hmmmmm. It seemed like the only logical response to the words “bomb cyclone” or “the current temperature is zero degrees,” and featured an absurd but alluring almost full cup(!!) of mustard in its midst.
It looked so good that I trudged to the grocery store in the midst of snowmageddon to pick up the ingredients. (Actually, if we’re being honest, I completely didn’t think that the storm would be very serious, and went to work with my gym clothes, assuming that I’d have the willpower to go spinning after work. Instead I scurried home at 3p while it snowed ON THE UNDERGROUND SUBWAY PLATFORM and made a quick pit stop to Whole Foods before getting carried home by the winds on Second Avenue. Living in New York City is always an adventure … )
Back to what you’re really here for, aka this heavenly Dijon and Cognac beef stew recipe. It starts off following the standard beef stew route before veering off on its own course, one that involves two different kinds of mustard (Dijon [duh.] and whole-grain*), as well as Cognac, a fancy French brandy that’s often mentioned in rap songs. You definitely don’t need the expensive stuff — I used a basic Cognac and the stew was mighty tasty regardless.
The amount of mustard that goes into the stew may seem alarming at first, but don’t be daunted — it mellows and melds and ultimately creates a luxe, silky gravy that’s savory and only slightly spicy. I am an idiot and totally forgot to buy beef stock, so I used water and a few healthy dashes of Worchestershire instead, and it didn’t even matter. There is so much flavor happening here that I hardly missed the stock. I added little creamer potatoes, which absorbed the gravy and became so delicious that I ended up picking almost all of them out on Night 1. (So much for going low-carb this month.)
The Times published the original recipe in the days after Sept. 11, along with a meditation from its author, Regina Schrambling, on how cooking can be extremely comforting and therapeutic in the wake of tragedy.
Obviously, there is no such tragedy here, but her point, that cooking can be incredibly meditative, is one that I believe strongly and feel often. Chopping onions, browning beef, sauteeing mushrooms — it’s all in the service of beef stew, of course, but it’s also a really great, calming way to pass the time, to spend a few hours on a really cold day when I’m stuck inside with me, myself and The Crown. And let me tell you, nothing makes a snow storm bearable than this rich, flavorful stew.
*Actually, the original recipe called for Pommery mustard, which is also fancy and French and was wholly unavailable at the one store I went to during the storm. It’s probably really delicious, but I used a whole-grain Dijon that I had in the fridge, and can’t say I missed much.
Not into Dijon? No worries — I’ve got plenty of other stews to keep you warm this winter:
Irish Lamb Stew
Moroccan Beef Stew
Beef and Barley Stew
Green Chile and Pork Posole
Ribollita (Italian Bread Stew)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter, as needed
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons flour
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup Cognac
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons whole-grain (or Pommery, if you can find it) mustard
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into half-moon slices (or two handfuls of baby carrots)
- 1 pound small creamer potatoes, scrubbed (or Yukon golds, scrubbed and cubed)
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and quartered
- 1/4 cup red wine
- In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat the olive oil and two tablespoons of butter on medium-low heat. Add the onion and shallots, and saute until softened (but not browned), about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Toss the beef cubes with flour and season with salt and pepper. Melt an additional tablespoon of butter in the pot, then increase the heat to medium. Working in three batches, brown the beef on all sides until it is well-browned. Transfer to the bowl with the onions. Repeat with the remaining batches.
- Carefully add the Cognac to the pot and cook, stirring, until the tasty browned bits have loosened. Whisk in the stock, Dijon, and 1 tablespoon of the whole-grain mustard until the mixture is smooth. Return the meat and onions to the pot, then cover, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, add the carrots and potatoes. Re-cover and simmer for an additional hour.
- While the stew is simmering, cook the mushrooms: in a small skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter. On medium-high heat, saute the mushrooms until they are browned and tender.
- After the stew has simmered for an hour, add the mushrooms, remaining 3 tablespoons of whole-grain mustard, and the red wine. Simmer uncovered for an additional 30 minutes, then check for seasonings, adding salt and pepper if necessary.