Beef Stew and Truffle Polenta, Mountain-Man Style

I have never been accused of being a “dainty” girl. Fun? Yes. Smart? Sure. But dainty? Never. Somewhere  between my lack of hand-eye coordination and my incredible ability to burp on cue, I have just never been called dainty.
And oh yeah…I like meat. And cream. And thick, hearty stews.
Real moutain-man type food.
Make this for your inner mountain-man. I promise he will be thrilled.

 A couple of pounds of high quality meat – we used stew beef, because you really want those fatty cuts that will break down during the cooking process and become velvety and tender.

Rinse and dry each piece of meat, then toss it in a bowl of salt and peppered flour. Shake off each piece and…
Toss them into a large olive-oiled stockpot on medium high! You want to get a nice brown sear on all sides to lock in the juices during the long cooking process. Be careful that the pieces of meat are not uber-crowded, or else the meat will steam not sear.
Guh-ross. We don’t want a meat sauna there.
Once they are nice and seared on all sides-maybe just a minute a side or so-you can start to prep the vegetables.

Peel and slice carrots into medium sized pieces – don’t slice them too small, or they will dissolve in there!

 And dice the celery into small pieces because that does not get mushy like carrots do, no matter now long it cooks. It will get tender, but it won’t dissolve into nothingness in your mouth like mushy carrots.

Toss the veggies in the pot!

 Now time to add 2 boxes of stock(any kind you like, but we used beef), 1 disc of demiglace and about 2 cups of red wine.

Then tie up a bundle of herbs with a piece of thread and toss it in. This way, you don’t even have to chop any herbs. What is edible will fall off and dissolve into the stew, and the woody stems and herbs will remain whole and just be fished out at the end. I used rosemary, thyme, sage and a couple of bay leaves
Threw some whole peeled garlic cloves in there too.
Then we preheated the oven to 250, foiled the top of the pot…

AND put the lid on. Ain’t no way there was steam escaping this! The whole point is to let the steam that acquires during the beef’s cooking come up to the top and then have no choice but to return back to the stew and make the beef incredibly moist and juicy.
We have our ways of making our proteins cooperate, here at Fritos and Foie Gras.
Now leave that in the stove, UNTOUCHED for 2 hours. It’s hard, I know. Mommy loves you, you will be fine.
You may have noticed that onions were conspicuously absent. That’s because, like the carrots, we wanted the onions to stay relatively whole. But unlike carrots, onions are incredibly fast cooking. Also, we wanted to use small, sweet pearl onions here. You know…those ones that take FOREVER to peel. Those ones that really aren’t even WORTH it because they are so miserable to peel. So, what’s a gal to do?
1)Boil pearl onions (at least 1 bag) for about 5 minutes, or until knife tender.
2)Take off the MEREST TIP of the root end – just want to take the roots off, still want the onion all attached so it doesn’t come apart.
3)Pinch the onion at the top and the onions should pop right out of the skins. Leave them as is for now. You might want to try just one. But try not to eat them ALL if you can help it…they are so sweet and have the most delightful velvety-firm texture that it is hard not to instantly devour them all. 
You could serve mashed potatoes with this, or wide egg noodles, or even just a hunk of crusty sourdough bread.
But what the hell…how about polenta? In case you havent’ had it, polenta is just cornmeal, so it is like slightly finer milled grits or slightly more textural masa. Every culture loves a good cornmeal dish! There is slow cooking and fast cooking polenta. The fast cooking kind is pretty damn delicious, but since we had to wait those 2 hours for the stew anyway…what the heck? Slow cooking it was!
Lots of different kinds of stock.

Plus a touch of wine…

and some cream…duh. Cause cream is awesome.
Then you are going to pour as much liquid in a large pot as it says on your package of polenta that the polenta needs to cook. Note that you may need to add more liquid as the time goes – we ended up needing a 1:1 polenta:liquid ratio to get the creamy, slightly liquid texture we wanted.
Add the polenta, and you are ready to go! Keep stirring the polenta liquid mixture so it doesn’t burn at the bottom. Start with the amount of liquid that the package calls for, and only add more liquid if the mixture gets too thick or starts to seize.
Now take a nice block of cheese…gorgozola or fontina would be lovely, but this truffle pecorino was a real treat. You want something with good meltability and a bit of its own flavor. Mozzarella would be too mild for this purpose.                                                                                                                                                       
Chop it up.

 And for heaven’s sake, keep stirring!

 In about 20 minutes (no whining, it’s good to build up arm muscles!) you will get this thick, luscious looking mixture that is positively loaded with truffle taste and aroma. If you don’t use the truffle cheese, you can always just splash a wee bit of truffle oil in there (sorry, Serious Eats, I still like the stuff!).
Let the polenta sit. It will thicken as it cools, and you can either cut it into wedges and lightly saute it, or – as I prefer – gently reheat it when serving time approaches and serve it mashed-potato style.

Has it been 2 hours? Good! Uncover the pot in the oven and SMELL that beefy, winey goodness. Toss the onions in, along with salt, pepper and…

 An entire small can of tomato paste. Let it simmer, covered but not foiled, for another half hour.

 Then skim the fat…

and enjoy (along with a delicious mushroom ragout, if you must…clearly, I must…)

This is just insanely delicious.  Juicy, tender beef, sweet carrots, those meltingly tender onions that are still whole but soft and perfectly straddling the line between sweet and astringent. The stock made the stew rich and umami-filled and the wine and tomato paste balance out he acidic and sweet aspects of the sauce. The polenta is creamy, rich and tastes of cream, corn and those earthy, heady truffles. This is a rich, deep meal and it is hearty enough for a mountain man but refined enough for Julia Child.
As we know, I’m more of a mountain man, myself. 


  1. amanda areias says:

    Ok! Send me some of this ragout and I mail you a oxtail sandwich! 🙂

  2. A nice rethinking of boeuf bourguignon. And less fussy. I would probably saute the veg before adding the meat back into the pot, but that's just old habit talking. This would also work pretty nicely in a crock pot (gasp!) instead of the oven for the braising part. Nice to see another recipe (I love your reviews, but the recipes make me happy.)

  3. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Amanda – it's a DEAL!!
    @Dee – thanks, Dee! There will be a LOT of Passover recap recipes coming up 🙂 I am hoping to make your version of chicken liver, actually!!!

  4. You're going to be such a good wife one day.

  5. Great post. I love the ideas about the boiler onions and the tied herbs, very useful in any recipe!
    However, it seems like your link to “Mushroom ragout” does not work… I tried to view it and was lead to an error page that said “this page has been removed”
    Did you remove the recipe? If so, sad day! And you should update your posts that mention it 🙂 If this is some sort of error, then I would love to read the recipe! I tried searching your site but nothing was found with that title, only a couple others posts that mentioned it with the same broken link…

    • fritosfg says:

      Hi Nicole!

      Thanks so much for reading!

      You know what, my mushroom ragout recipe got lost when I switched my blog post over! I am going to re-publish it tomorrow, with links! Will you check back?