I am chained to the bed today, fending off percocet-induced fuzziness after minor surgery yesterday (not to worry, I should be up again in no time). Lisl had to stay home from work to help me, and one lovely side benefit is the wonderful smell of baking bread wafting through the house. In between attempts to get work done, I’ve been catching up on food blogs, flipping through cookbooks, twittering more than usual, and trying to think how I can be as funny as Zen. I’ve decided that I need to accept my limitations. 🙂
I also decided to update my beef stew recipe on here since I made a big batch right before heading to the hospital (when I was still allowed to lift my dutch oven) and took a few pics of the process.
Most food bloggers probably have their own favorite beef stew recipe; ours comes from my mother, and one day many years ago I took notes as she put it together. She cooks the dish by feel so it is never exactly the same, but the basics are as follows:
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
10 mushrooms (white or cremini), thickly sliced
2 pounds round or chuck beef
5 carrots, thickly chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
2 large russet potatoes, cut into large chunks
large handful of green beans, ends removed and cut into 1″ pieces
1.5 cups frozen peas
3 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
very large handful of parsley, chopped
1 tbsp oregano
salt & pepper
Trim some of the excess fat off of the beef, but leave some to add richness. Cut the beef into cubes of preferred size (I do rough cubes of about an inch) and lightly flour on all sides.
Start boiling a kettle of water (or a medium pot) and pre-heat oven to 315F.
In a large oven-proof pot such as a dutch oven, heat some olive oil and saute the onions and garlic over medium-low heat. As they start to turn translucent, add in your mushrooms. Cook for several minutes
Remove the onions and mushrooms to a large bowl, add a little more olive oil to the pot, and brown the beef in batches over slightly higher heat (adding olive oil as necessary). Just brown the beef, do not cook. Remove the beef to the bowl with onions and mushrooms, and deglaze the bottom of the pot with some of the boiling water.
Your kitchen should smell amazing at this point. 🙂
Turn the heat down to low, and then return the meat, onions and mushrooms to the pot. Add everything except for the green beans and peas. Add 1 tsp of salt (you’ll probably want more, but can add to taste later). Add the wine and then pour in boiling water until the water level is just below the tops of the meat and vegetables.
Bring to a bubbling simmer on the stovetop, then cover and place in the oven for an hour. After an hour, skim any excess oil off of the top, then stir in the green beans and peas, and taste for salt. Return to the oven for another 2 hours, periodically pulling it out for a stir. The longer you can slow-cook it, the thicker it should get as the vegetables break down and thicken the stew. (you don’t want to try to thicken it by boiling off liquid)
I wait to add pepper until serving, and will often add some freshly chopped parsley. While it is very good on its own, we often serve with egg noodles or rice.
A few notes:
If you need to cook your stew on the stovetop, do your best to keep the simmer very light, and stir regularly especially if you have a thin-bottomed pot, because you do not want the bottom of the stew to burn. That happened to me once and the burnt flavor permeated the whole thing!
You can totally mix up the amounts of each vegetable to fit your flavor profile, or add more red wine to make it richer, or use rosemary instead of oregano, etc. This last stew I made (which is where the photographs came from) included some san marzano tomatoes, chunks of celery root, a jalapeno pepper, and we did not have any peas. It was delicious, but the base recipe my family likes to work off of is as described above.