Hearty Beef & Bacon Stew & Introducing The Baron...

I'm baaack! After the whirlwind trip to Israel and the chaos of moving/settling into a new place, I'm finally getting back into the old routine. Even better is playing in my new kitchen and having a well stocked pantry! But the best part of it all is having someone special to prepare meals for. With fall already here {my favorite season of the year}, I've been ready to get some fall meals on the table. Nothing beats a comforting dish this time of year. A favorite fall dish is a beef stew and I knew this Hearty Beef & Bacon Stew was perfect for the cool weather we've been having and something I knew he'd enjoy. A large pot of slowly simmered beef and smoky bacon, a melange of colorful vegetables and mound of fluffy Parmesan garlic mashed potatoes hit the spot for dinner...

So I'm going to be referring to him as 'The Baron.' It's a not so long {yet, funny and clever} story I won't get into, but The Baron has been fun to have as a taste tester in my kitchen. Him and I share similar tastes in food and he has quite a few foods he has yet to experience. For example, he recently tried lobster for the first time last week. And hot apple cider. On the flip side, he poses some culinary challenges for me such as brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes - both are foods he does not like after trying them in various ways. It's a good thing I welcome culinary challenges; although he doesn't have very many at all. We have dinner together once a week and it's a time I look forward to so I can prepare a menu that I can be held accountable to make. Recently, I made this beef stew. The Baron is a simple {yet complex} guy who likes his meat and potatoes. For this stew, I omitted the traditional chunks of potatoes thrown in and instead, served the stew over mashed potatoes for a heartier meal. We both enjoyed this recipe quite a bit and it's especially delicious over mashed potatoes, steamed rice or noodles. The leftovers are great as well since it absorbs the flavors even more. Oh, one more thing. The Baron plated the above dish. Didn't he do a great job? I did little to no food styling whatsoever... the mark of a natural!

Hearty Beef & Bacon Stew
recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma

4 oz. thick-cut bacon, chopped
3 Tbs. {gluten free} flour
1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
3 lb. boneless beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into chunks
3/4 lb. fresh white button mushrooms, quartered
1/2 lb. baby carrots
1/2 lb. frozen pearl onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry red wine {Merlot}
1 cup beef broth
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme

In a dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving the drippings in the pan.

In a sealable plastic bag, combine the flour, the 1 tsp. salt and the 1/2 tsp. pepper. Add the beef chunks and shake to coat evenly with the flour mixture. Return the dutch oven to medium-high heat. When the drippings are hot, add half of the beef chunks and cook, turning once, until well browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef chunks, adding the reserved drippings if needed. Return the rest of the beef to the dutch oven.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the wine, broth and tomato paste. Mix well, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits on the pan bottom.

Add the mushrooms, carrots, onions and garlic to the pot; stir to incorporate. Add the bay leaves, cover and cook on the medium high-heat for 1 hour.The beef should be very tender. Stir in the reserved bacon and the thyme. Cook, uncovered, on high-heat for 10 minutes more to thicken the sauce slightly. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 6.