4 cups Nebbiolo or Chianti (other dry red wine is OK)
8 sprigs of thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
6 sage leaves
4 sprigs of rosemary (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
5 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
2 crushed juniper berries
grind of black pepper
pinch fennel powder
Heaping tsp sea salt
2.5 lbs. stew beef, cut into 2 inch cubes
FOR THE STEW
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups water
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups reserved marinade (see notes)
1 cup of liquid used to reconstitute the porcini
½ cup coarsely chopped parsley
6 olives, sliced
1 tbsp of lemon zest
a few grinds of black pepper
1.5 tsp garlic powder
Make the marinade: Combine all the marinade ingredients, from the wine through the fennel powder, in a large bowl. Place the beef in a large sealable plastic bag, then pour the marinade into the bag (having a helper is handy here). Gently shake the beef around a bit to get it well-coated, then squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it tightly. Store the beef in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Prepare porcini: Reconstitute the dried porcini mushrooms 30 minutes prior to starting to cook the stew. Heat the water in a pan. When it starts to boil, remove from stove and pour over the dried porcini in a bowl that can withstand the hot water. Let the porcini soak in the water for at least 30 minutes.
Drain & rinse mushrooms: Place a sieve over a bowl and line it with a wet paper towel. Pour the mushrooms into the sieve. Reserve the porcini soaking water. Rinse the mushrooms, then coarsely chop and set aside.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees as you get ready to brown the meat and veggies
Drain beef & reserve marinade: To start making the stew, place a strainer inside a large bowl. Pour the beef mixture into the strainer, using the bowl to capture and reserve the marinade. Remove the beef, patting it with paper towel to dry it a bit, and scrape off big pieces of herbs and spices from the marinade. Set the beef aside in a bowl.
Brown vegetables: Heat the oil on medium heat in a dutch oven. Add the finely chopped onion, carrot, and celery to the pan, cook for a few minutes until it starts to soften.
Brown the beef: Add the garlic, cook for another minute. Next, stir in the beef, combining it well with the veggies. Salt to taste. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to brown on all sides.
Add liquid: After the beef has browned, stir in the reserved marinade and 1 cup of the porcini liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to simmer for about 5 minutes, allowing the liquid to reduce a bit.
Cover the Dutch oven / copper pan and move the stew to the oven, where it will braise for a total of 3 hours.
Braise in oven 3 hours: Braise at 300 degrees for one hour. If you are using a convection setting, lower the temperature to 275 after the first hour, and braise for an additional 2 hours at 275. If you are using a conventional setting, leave at 300 degrees for the entire 3 hours.
Finish on stove top: Carefully move the stew back to the stovetop after the 3 hours. Bring to a steady simmer, and add the garlic powder, chopped porcini mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes reduce and thicken the stew. At the end of this cooking time, stir in the parsley, olives and lemon zest.
Serve: We like to serve the stew over mashed potatoes, or you can serve with noodles or directly in a bowl. Enjoy with a glass of Nebbiolo or other Italian red wine!
As you can see there are a lot of ingredients in the marinade! Use them all if you have on hand, but the items used in small quantities such as cinnamon stick and juniper berries can be omitted if you don’t have on hand.
Similarly, it is nice to use fresh herbs in the marinade, but dried herbs can be substituted. I would use at least one fresh herb. For instance, last time I used fresh sage leaves along with dried rosemary and thyme. Was still very tasty!
Liquid for braising stew: The key is to have about 2 1/2 cups liquid for braising the beef stew. The last time I made the stew, I had some homemade beef stock on hand, so I used 1 cup stock, 1 cup reserved marinade and 1/2 cup reserved porcini. Feel free to vary the proportion of liquids used based on what you have available, to total 2 1/2 cups.
If you like, you can scoop out the stew and the sprinkle the parsley, lemon zest and olives over each bowl, rather than stirring those items into the stew. Makes a nice presentation.