Barefoot Contessa’s Modern Comfort Food: Ultimate Beef Stew

January 20, 2021

Like pretty much everyone who knows how to cook, I love the Barefoot Contessa. I have already written about two of her cookbooks on the blog: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Cooks Like a Pro.

When I saw that she had a new cookbook out, I immediately went and got it from the library. I made three recipes, all great, before I had to take it back. Then my mom gave me a copy for Christmas, so now I’m excited to make a bunch more of these recipes. Modern Comfort Food, which is comfort food made special, is perfect for living through a pandemic in winter. These are recipes you know, but made in that  Barefoot Contessa way that makes you feel like you’re living your best life. The recipes are pretty simple, but she knows just how to add that something extra that will make the food taste great. So far I’ve made scrambled egg and avocado tacos, tuna melts, and this delicious stew. I highly recommend that you check out this cookbook if you are in the mood for some comfort food.


Serves 6 to 8

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cups chopped fennel, trimmed and cored (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, including juices
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 pound carrots, cut 1/2 inch thick diagonally
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, 1-inch diced
  • 10 ounces frozen peas
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until browned. Transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Meanwhile, season the short ribs with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Brown half (or whatever fits in your pan) the meat in the Dutch over over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer browned meat to a bowl. Continue browning the rest of the meat in batches.
  4. Off the heat, add the Cognac and 1/3 cup of the wine to the pot, scraping up any browned bits, then simmer over medium heat for one minute. Add the onions and fennel and saute, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  5. Stir the tomatoes and tomato paste into the vegetables. Add the remaining 2/3 cup of wine, the beef broth, the browned meat and juices, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and bake for 1 1/4 hours.
  6. Degrease the stew, if necessary. Stir in the carrots and potatoes, cover, and bake for one hour longer, until the vegetables and meat are very tender. Just before serving, stir in the peas and pancetta, taste for seasonings, and serve hot.

My notes: OMG, this stew is so good. My family, of course, loved it. But I have to admit that I never put this stew in the oven while I was cooking it. Somehow I kept skipping over the word “bake,” but then I realized that I preheated the oven. Duh! Anyway, I completely cooked this on the top of the stove, and it turned out great. This is exactly the kind of warm, comfort food you want to eat during a Midwestern winter. Enjoy!

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