Are you familiar with that show “Ugly Delicious” on Netflix? Part of the description of Ugly Delicious is “All the flavor. None of the BS.” That’s kind of where this dish falls into place. For one, it is totally ugly. I mean real ugly. But with that being said I would serve this French onion beef stew to all of my closest friends. This French onion beef stew screams comfort, I mean deep comfort, and is both parts beef stew, and French onion soup. Take this recipe and make it your way, but this particular recipe goes the route of slowly caramelizing onions, lightly coating the beef chunks with a flour mix for a nice sear before braising, and lots of chunky vegetables. Not only that but the pièce de résistance of the stew is that darn large slightly crispy bread with the melted Gruyere cheese.
Let’s get started.
- 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 5 carrots, peeled, then cut into large chunks
- 2 whole russet potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks
- 1 cup button mushrooms, quartered
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil, more optional
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp kosher salt, more to season
- 1/2 tbsp ground black pepper, more to season
- 1/2 cup canola oil, or other
- 3 lbs beef stew meat, cut into larger chunks
- 6 cups beef or chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, or sherry
- 1 tsp thyme
- slices of rustic bread
- 2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
Start by preparing all of your ingredients. The ‘mise en place’. Probably one of the most important things to do in the kitchen. Once everything is prepared then things will easily fall into place.
Start with caramelizing your onions. To a large skillet, add in butter and let it melt. Once melted, add in all of your onions, spread and mix around in the skillet, and cook these on medium-low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring along the way. Your goal is to brown them, and brown them in a good way. Not with high heat, but a lower heat so they are super tender and succulent and not burned. While the onions are cooking, let’s dredge the beef in the flour mixture.
Season the beef generously with salt and pepper. Mix. To a larger bowl add the flour, corn starch, salt, pepper, and give that a good mix. Add in the beef chunks, and using both hands, lightly mix ensuring your lightly cover all of the meat with the flour mix.
To a large cooking pot (I cook everything in this for the braise) add in the oil. Bring this to temperature on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, keeping an eye on the oil.
Add in the beef chunks (you will have to do this in batches) to the bottom of the pot being careful not to overcrowd the beef. Brown each side of the beef, then once browned remove from the pot onto a plate. Repeat until all of the beef is browned. This is probably the most labor intensive part of the recipe, and probably the dirtiest because of oil splatter.
Once the beef is all done, add a bit of stock and scrape any bits off of the bottom of the pot. If the pot is burned with bits, then simply wash the pot, and continue on.
Return the beef to the pot. Add in the potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and give a stir.
Add in the stock and thyme. Cover, and place into the oven on 325 degrees, or cover and reduce the heat on the stove to low and cook until the meat is falling apart, about 4 hours.
When the onions caramelize to your liking, add them to the beef stew, then give a good mix. It doesn’t matter when you add them, but add them when they are cooking to your liking. Add in the wine or sherry.
About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, make the large crouton. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Slice your rustic bread (I make a nice slice as that cheesy bread is a winner), then drizzle with some olive oil. Place into the oven until your bread is a light golden brown and slightly crisp. If you can get between a chewy bread (still has texture) and a crouton, then that’s where you want to be. Regardless you will be dipping this into the stew so it doesn’t matter all of that much. Once golden, slide out, add cheese to cover, then place back into the oven to melt the Gruyere cheese. Once melted, remove the bread.
Now time to plate (or bowl) and serve.
Ladle in the French onion beef stew making sure you get all of the soft vegetables and meat. Ladle from the bottom upward. You know what to do.
Add the crouton. If you want to float that crouton go ahead. Dunk and eat. Repeat.
French onion beef stew. Ugly delicious. Enjoy.