Another recipe I tried from Mark's Daily Apple this week was his Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.
I'll tell you right off the bat that I've never smelled anything so amazing in my life as this stuff cooking in the oven for hours. Seriously. If I could bottle that smell, I'd be rich!
Anyway - this is basically just a French beef stew. You start with bacon (how can you go wrong?!), render some fat out of it, then brown a bunch of chunks of beef (I used a big chuck roast that I bought on sale and cut up into bits myself) in the hot bacon fat. The beef and bacon then go into a casserole dish, some seasoned flour is sprinkled over it, and it goes in a 425 degree oven for about 10 or 15 minutes, until the flour is absorbed and it starts to crust a little. Meanwhile, you saute a chopped onion, some minced garlic and a couple sliced carrots in the remaining bacon fat, then add some tomato paste, oregano, bay leaf, parsley, beef stock and wine (I used a cheap cabernet sauvignon to great effect). The liquid simmers for 10-15 minutes and is then added to the meat in the casserole dish. The whole thing goes in the oven for anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. This is where that whole smell thing comes in. Brace yourself for that, because it's fairly maddening. ;)
The recipe I was working off of called for browning the mushrooms separately and adding them after, but next time I'll just throw them right in with the meat and liquid before it goes in the oven, as I found the un-incorporated mushrooms kinda...meh. I think if they'd had a couple hours of soaking up wine and beef and bacon flavors, they would have added more to the dish. Also, the original recipe called for straining the meat out of the liquid and then reducing the liquid a bit before serving but I decided mine was thick enough and so I skipped that step.
This stuff was truly wonderful. Rich, thick, velvety, with amazing depth of flavor. All of the connective tissue in the beef (which there's a LOT in chuck cuts) melts during the braising and leaves the meat amazingly tender without being fall-apart soft or mushy. I think this has become one of my new favorite dishes. Even writing about it after the fact is making me salivate. I might have to go pick at the leftovers now. ;)