M I A for a long, long, long time . . . ready to cook SOON and this time it’ll be stew!

Well hello there! It’s been six plus months since my last post. Why? I don’t know really. I guess I haven’t had much to say. I also haven’t had a kitchen, what with the endless remodel. Technically, I have only been without a real kitchen for two months but it feels like a year and frankly it’s difficult to cook without pots, pan, a stove, oven, sink oh and countertops. This is what my kitchen looks like right now. 

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ARGH. I hate mudding drywall. It’s kicking my butt! As soon as it’s all done I will post pictures of the new house. Which is really what we’re ending up with once this is all said and done. New bath, bonus room living room, bedroom. I have the BEST husband in the whole world. He’s a slave driver and my back and neck my never be the same but I’ll be living in style at least. Soon that will all come to an end and I will have a brand new kitchen. My in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving and the goal is to have it all done then. Pray, cross your fingers, knock on wood what ever it takes I need a kitchen.

Anyway, now that it’s fall I’m anxious to start cooking soups, stews, breads; you know all those warm and cozy foods than make the horror of cold weather bearable. One of the first things I plan to cook is beef stew. Mmmmmm. I have tried several different approaches to stew and had differing levels of success. Tyler Florence’s “Ultimate Beef Stew” was pretty good but lacked depth of flavor. Mama’s stew is good but a bit simplistic. The BEST beef stew recipe I’ve ever found is “Cook’s Illustrated’s”. I tweak the recipe (of course) a few places but only by additions and a minor subtraction. This stew is rich, meaty and down right delicious! I serve it with a thick piece of crusty Italian peasant bread and a dollop of horseradish/sour cream/chive mixture. You will love, love, love this recipe!

Published January 1, 2010.  From Cook’s Illustrated.

SERVES 6 TO 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • anchovy fillets, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons) – DO NOT SKIP THIS INGREDIENT. I’ve used anchovy paste in a pinch.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (see note and step by step below)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable (cold-pressed Grapeseed oil is optimum)
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut from pole to pole into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups red wine (see note)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh lavender (I added this on my own. I adore cooking with lavender. It’s completely optional since most people don’t grow it or have it readily available)
  • 4 ounces salt pork, rinsed of excess salt (see note)
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed (I HATE these so I skip them and add mushrooms instead)
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (about 1 packet)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed (Trader Joe’s English peas are AMAZING!)
  • Table salt and ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine garlic and anchovies in small bowl; press with back of fork to form paste. Stir in tomato paste and set mixture aside.
  2. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Do not season. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add half of beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke or fond begins to burn. Transfer beef to large plate. Repeat with remaining beef and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, leaving second batch of meat in pot after browning.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and return first batch of beef to pot. Add onion and carrots to Dutch oven and stir to combine with beef. Cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.
  4. Slowly add wine, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase heat to high and allow wine to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme, and salt pork. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Remove pot from oven; remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
  6. Using large spoon, skim any excess fat from surface of stew. Stir in peas and mushrooms; cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are cooked through and meat offers little resistance when poked with fork (meat should not be falling apart), about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and allow to soften for 5 minutes.
  7. Increase heat to high, stir in softened gelatin mixture and peas; simmer until gelatin is fully dissolved and stew is thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve. 

NOTE:
Use a good-quality, medium-bodied wine, such as Malbec or Pinot Noir, for this stew. Try to find beef that is well marbled with white veins of fat. Meat that is too lean will come out slightly dry. Four pounds of blade steaks, trimmed of gristle and silver skin, can be substituted for the chuck-eye roast. While the blade steak will yield slightly thinner pieces after trimming, it should still be cut into 11/2-inch pieces. Look for salt pork that is roughly 75 percent lean. The stew can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat it gently before serving.

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Enjoy and let me know if you try it, with or without my “tweaks”.

 

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