I have such a love/hate relationship with this time of year.
I have said for years that I find January and February to be the most depressing months of the year. Not only is the weather bitter and gray, but the holidays are over and we all go back to the daily grind. That said, it’s also a wonderful time for reflection and hope. Reflection on the year passed and hope for the future. A renewed sense of purpose and motivation, tinged with the melancholic acceptance that another year has gone by…and gone by FAST.
I love it. And I hate it.
Between copious amounts of salads and an abundance of green smoothies, I always make sure to fit in a comfort dish here and there. Because I need it to cope with all my feelings this time of year. The temperatures are hovering right around 18 degrees right now; thus, today’s recipe couldn’t have come at a better time.
I teased this recipe on Snapchat and Instagram stories last week, and you guys seemed pumped! I’m not the only one who needs an extra dose of cozy this week, huh? I’ve got your back, friends.
These mini beef pot pies are extra special. There is nothing typical about them. The reason?
I basically made the classic French dish beef bourguignon as the filling, which is one of the most heavenly meals on earth. Think of it as pot roast stew on steroids. Steroids filled with wine. And bacon.
I get kinda passionate about food sometimes (in case you haven’t noticed), and this dish is up there with some of the all-time greats. Whenever I include beef bourguignon in my weekly meal plan, I know it’s going to be a good week. I served this to my dad last winter, and he’s a fan of simple, easy food. He’s not into fussy food at all. And one bite into this and he was flabbergasted. Just stunned at how a simple, no-fuss beef stew could taste so good (Pssst, the secret is all the wiiiiiine. Don’t tell anyone).
This is my version of the classic beef bourguignon. I haven’t strayed from this recipe since I first made it a few years ago. It’s just…perfect. I make mine without the classic addition of mushrooms, just because they are not my thing, but feel free to add them if you like. I imagine they would be quite good here.
This recipe takes some time and patience, but it’s simple to throw together and made with ingredients that most of us have on hand (OK, so maybe not the beef roast itself. I don’t have a fridge full of chuck roast, haha). I have said this before, but there is something very therapeutic for me about slow-cooked food. The chopping of the veggies, deglazing of the pan, and the luscious scents that fill the house when the stock comes up to a simmer are all pure comfort to me. I can kind of zone out and do my thing for 20 minutes or so.
Then, it goes in the oven and gets left alone for a couple hours. Low-key, no-fuss cooking. But it’s still French! Which means it is impressive. Without question.
Because we have had the classic version of this dish so many times (sans mushrooms, of course!), I decided that I wanted to serve it up a little differently this time. So, after the stew had simmered for a couple hours in the oven and the beef was insanely, fall-apart tender, I ladled it into soup crocks and topped them off with rounds of store bought puff pastry. Back into the oven they went until the pastry had crisped and puffed and turned mouthwateringly golden brown.
Then it was time to eat!
Dan and I enjoyed these on a cold winter evening, complete with a glass (or three) of wine. We put Kieran to bed and then sat down to a mid-week, at-home date night of sorts. We do that every now and then, and it is so needed. We talked about our days and what was still to come that week, caught up with each other, and shared a beautiful meal together at our kitchen island. The dogs were at our feet, and the hum of Kieran’s sound machine coming through the monitor was our background noise.
It was perfect.
And so are these pot pies! I’m telling you, if you want a food hug, this is how to get it done.
6 strips bacon, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups dry red wine
3 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
2 cups frozen pearl onions (no need to defrost ahead)
1 cup frozen peas (no need to defrost ahead)
2 full sheets of frozen puff pastry, defrosted but chilled
Fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large pot or Dutch oven, crisp the bacon over medium heat. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Increase the temperature to medium-high and add in the canola oil. Pat the pieces of beef dry with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Add the beef to the pot in batches. Sear for 2 minutes per side, or until a golden brown crust forms.
Remove the browned beef from the pot and set aside. Reduce the temperature to medium again.
Add in the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté for several minutes, or until tender. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute or until fragrant.
Sprinkle the flour evenly over the veggies and toss to coat. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the flour is golden brown.
Add the wine, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot, and bring to a simmer.
Add in the stock, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, bay leaf, and potatoes, along with a little more salt and pepper.
Return the beef and bacon to the pot and stir to combine everything.
Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 2-3 hours, occasionally checking on the beef and stirring things around. The meat is done when a fork easily pierces it and it sort of falls apart.
Add in the frozen pearl onions and peas and return the uncovered pot to the oven for another 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your puff pastry crust by rolling it out lightly on a floured surface. Using serving bowls or ramekins (oven-proof ones!), trace out circles of the dough.
Remove the pot from the oven and increase the temperature to 425°F.
Ladle the beef stew filling into the ramekins or oven-proof bowls. Brush the edges of the bowls with some of the egg wash. Cover each bowl with a circle of the pastry dough. Cut a slit in the top of each dough circle and brush each with the egg wash.
Place the pot pies on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden, crisp, and slightly puffed.
Remove the pot pies from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and then garnish with parsley and serve.