I like the beef in big, irregular pieces and sometimes cut up a chuck roast for this. Cumbrae’s, 481 Church St., sells large-chunk, naturally-raised stewing beef. I like Imagine chicken or beef stock sold in cartons at most health stores and supermarkets.
3 lb/1.5 kg stewing beef, cut in big chunks
750 mL bottle full-bodied dry red wine
About 6 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
1 cup pitted prunes
1½ cups (half a 28-oz/796 mL can) plum tomatoes
1½ cups beef or chicken stock
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
1 lb/500 g mushrooms, thickly sliced
Two 10-oz/284 g bags pearl onions
⅓ cup beef or chicken stock, water or white wine
Chopped fresh parsley
A day ahead, place beef and wine in large bowl; let marinate in fridge at least 12 hours. Drain marinade into saucepan. Bring to boil; cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until slightly reduced. Reserve.
Place beef on paper towel; pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 325F.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring at intervals, about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Add garlic; cook about 3 minutes more. Add reduced marinade; cook, scraping up browned bits from skillet, about 1 minute.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to large dutch oven over high heat. Add about one-third of beef, making sure pieces are not crowded. Cook, turning once, until browned all over, about 5 minutes.
Transfer to bowl. Repeat, using 1 tablespoon of oil per batch, until all beef is browned. Return beef to dutch oven. Over high heat, add prunes, tomatoes, stock, thyme and carrot/onion mixture with its liquid. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom.
Bake in oven, covered, about 2½ hours or until beef is tender but not falling apart. Using tongs, transfer beef to large bowl. Place large sieve over bowl. Pour in sauce, pressing it with spoon until no liquid remains; discard solids. Taste sauce; add salt and pepper if necessary.
Add 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter to large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms. Cook, shaking at intervals, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add to beef mixture.
Add pearl onions to saucepan of boiling water. Cook over high heat about 2 minutes. Drain under cold water; peel.
Add remaining tablespoon each of olive oil and butter to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pearl onions. Cook, stirring, about 12 minutes or until browned. Reduce heat to low; add stock, water or wine and cook 5 minutes more or until tender. Add to beef mixture. Reheat before serving. Garnish with parsley.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.