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Boeuf Bourguignon, by Degrees

Wednesday, December 22, 2004; Page F06

Ina Garten's Boeuf Bourguignon

Serves 6

"I never really liked boeuf bourguignon. After cooking for three hours, the meat was stringy and dry and the vegetables were overcooked. So, I tried to solve the problem and came up with a delicious stew that cooks in an hour and a half. The good news is that it's even better the second day, so it's great for entertaining.

"To make in advance, cook the stew and refrigerate. To serve, reheat to a simmer over low heat and serve with the bread and parsley.

"Don't wash the mushrooms, just brush them clean.

"If the sauce is too thin, you can add more of the butter and flour mixture."

1 tablespoon good olive oil

8 ounces good bacon, diced

2 1/2 pounds beef chuck cut into 1-inch cubes

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks

2 yellow onions, sliced

2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)

1/2 cup Cognac or good brandy

1 (750-ml) bottle good dry red wine, such as Burgundy

2 to 2 1/2 cups canned beef broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 pound frozen small whole onions

1 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

For serving:

Country bread, toasted or grilled

1 clove garlic, cut in half

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