Beef with Red Wine and Prunes is one of my very favorite French dishes. It is the most tender beef with this succulent sauce that has a dark deep rich flavor and a slight sweetness from the prunes. Prunes? Really? Prunes in a French dish? Oh Yeah, and let me tell you, it’s nothing less than fabulous!
I love French cooking and the flavors that it brings to the table. I have cooked many of Julia Child’s recipes from her books and other recipes that I’ve found surfing the web. A few years ago, my sister-in-law gave me a book titled “The French Slow Cooker” by Michele Scicolone and I have made several of those dishes, all delicious. If you know anything about my cooking, you know I tend to start with a recipe and end up making a variation of it instead. Sometimes it’s because I don’t have all of the ingredients on hand or I just like doing things a bit different. This recipe is my take on Michele Scicolone’s Short Ribs with Red Wine and Prunes with just a few tweaks and changes. Instead of short ribs, I use a sirloin beef roast. This recipe I also cook in the oven. Since this is not a quick meal to fix during the week, I tend to fix it on one of my days off. I fix it in one large pan and pop it in the oven for a couple of hours and I have dinner on the table.
Here’s how I make it:
Beef with Red Wine and Prunes
Cut up a 2 1/2 – 3 pound sirloin roast into 2″ cubes.
Dust the flour, salt and pepper over the sirloin and mix it all up making sure each piece of meat is covered.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, place the sirloin pieces in the oil to brown the sides. Do not crowd the pan as that would steam it and they will not brown well.
After a few minutes, start turning the pieces over. This is what you want to see. They have browned and caramelized. That’s where the flavor is! It’s not necessary to cook the meat through, just brown them. And I don’t necessarily brown them on all 6 sides, just turn them a couple of times so the flour has been toasted. This will help in thickening the sauce that the meat will be simmering in. Take the meat out and place in a large bowl and cover with some aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat the browning process until all of the sirloin is finished.
Add the onion and celery to the drippings left in the pan. Over medium heat, saute the vegetables until they are tender and the onions are a bit transparent, about 3 minutes. If you feel the pan is too dry, add a Tablespoon or so of oil.
Add the garlic and Herbs de Provence. Stir them around into the onions and celery and let them simmer for a minute or two. This will toast the herbs a bit and bring out some great flavors.
Add the bay leaves. Usually I will use 2 bay leaves, but if they’re pretty big, I’ll do just one. This was a new jar and it had some really nice sized ones.
Pour in the red wine. Use what ever you like to drink. I used a Cabernet Sauvignon here and I have also used a Red Zinfandel. Both are great, it just depends on what I have on hand. If wine is not your thing, you can certainly use beef broth as a substitute. Bring the wine to a boil and let it simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes. This will cook out the alcohol and concentrate the flavors.
Add the tomato paste. I have discovered tomato paste in a tube and it is fabulous! In recipes like this where I only need a few Tablespoons, the tube is perfect and it keeps in the refrigerator a long time. If you’re like me and try not to mess up any more utensils than necessary, I just eyeball it when I squirt it in the pan. If you’re not sure what a Tablespoon amount looks like, just hold a measuring Tablespoon in one hand and squirt the tomato paste in the pan with the other hand to get a good feel of how much to put in.
Chop the prunes into small pieces and add to the pan of wondrous flavors. Do not leave these wonderful dark sweet pieces out. It just really makes this dish. The prunes will break down and you won’t actually be able to taste them, but it does give this dish a rich sweetness that is unmistakably wonderful!
Now it’s time for the beef broth. I tend to keep beef base in my refrigerator and when I need beef broth, I add 1 teaspoon of the beef base to 1 cup of water. It has a deeper richer flavor than the canned beef broth you buy, in my humble opinon. And since I am adding 4 cups of beef broth, I will add 4 teaspoons of the beef base to the pan and then add 4 cups of water to the pan. If you want to do store bought beef broth, no biggie, just add 4 cups of that.
Here’s where I add the water. Stir well to incorporate the beef base.
Add the dijon mustard. Again, I just eyeball it from the container.
Add the meat and any juices back into the pan and stir gently. Bring this fabulous concoction to a boil over medium heat.
Cover with a lid and place the pan into a 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is fork tender.
Oh my goodness, if you could only smell this. My mouth is watering just typing this and remembering that delicious meal. As you can see, the sauce has thickened but not dry. If your oven cooks hot and you find that the sauce is too dry, just add some water back to the pan and stir it around to the consistency you want.
Peel and cut the carrots into 1 inch pieces. Add them to the meat and sauce and stir around.
The reason I tend to put the carrots in last and not at the same time as the other vegetables, is I prefer my carrots to be crisp-tender and not over cooked.
Cover the pan again, place it back in the oven for 25-30 more minutes.
Here’s a tip. If you want to save that last 25-30 minutes and you want to cook the carrots exactly like so, cook them in some lightly salted water on the stove top. Then when the meat is nice and tender, just add the carrots before you serve it. I have to confess that I have forgotten to add the carrots to the meat and remembered right before I was ready to eat. Then I’m scrambling at the last minute cooking the carrots on the stove top. It really takes less time to do that especially since we like our carrots tender, but not mushy. With that being said, I make sure I prepare the carrots and put them in a bowl and place that bowl so I’ll see it when I’m cooking the side dishes. And hope I don’t forget!
And there you have it! We love this poured over egg noodles and sprinkled with chopped parsley. I promise, this is to die for! You must try it to believe it!
What is your favorite French dish?
Here’s the printer friendly version of this recipe. Enjoy!