Beef Stew

My sister sent me an email last night informing that it is my turn to post to our blog.  I am not an experienced blogger like Emily, as you can probably tell from the original and highly imaginative title of this post, but I do make a really delicious beef stew, so I will write about that.

Here in New Jersey, where it has been snowing almost constantly for the past month with no end in sight, beef stew seemed like the perfect friday night dinner to me.  An added bonus is that it makes the whole house smell unbelievably delicious while it is cooking. 

This recipe comes from Fine Cooking, which, if you’re in the market for a cooking magazine, is one of the best ones I’ve seen.  I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an issue that I haven’t made at least one thing from, and the recipes are usually not too complicated to follow.  So, here is the beef stew recipe, with some adaptations that I made for convenience (and because I realized halfway through that I was missing a couple of ingredients!).

Ingredients: 

One 3-lb boneless beef chuck roast ***definitely get the chuck eye roast, that is the best cut for braising. Also, the recipe calls for buying a whole roast and then cutting it up yourself, as opposed to buying the pre-cut packaged beef stew meat butcher shops sell. This is an absolute must for this recipe. You will get much bigger pieces that cook more evenly and are more satisfying to eat. Trust me, once you make a beef stew this way, you will never go back. (Emily warned you I was a food snob, right?).

Ok, back to the ingredients…

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil (don’t get me started on extra virgin olive oil versus non-extra-virgin, or, gasp, vegetable oil…food snob alert again)

2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into half inch pieces (I left this out because I keep kosher, but if you don’t, I’m sure adding this will only improve the recipe)

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

8 oz shallots (8 to 10 medium), thinly sliced, about 2 cups (you can substitute onions if you don’t have shallots)

2 tbs brandy

2 tbs tomato paste

2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp herbes de provence (I didn’t have this, and honestly have no idea what this even is, so I just threw in a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme instead)

2 cups hearty red wine

1 14.5 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes (this was one of the ingredients that I realized too late that I didn’t have, so I just substituted about 3/4 of a cup of canned crushed tomatoes. Didn’t seem to make much difference).

4 strips orange zest (removed from orange with vegetable peeler)

1 lb slender carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

fresh parsley

1. Pull the roast apart along its natural seams. Trim off any thick layers of fat. Carve the roast into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes and dry with paper towels.  Here is a picture of the cut up roast…see how big the pieces are?

2. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.

3. Heat the oil and bacon together (or just oil if you’re not using bacon) in a 7 or 8 quart dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bacon is browned but not crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon. (If you’re not using bacon, skip this step, except heating the oil, do that).

4. Season the meat with salt and pepper ( I didn’t use salt, if you’re using kosher meat, you probably don’t need extra salt), and arrange the meat in a sparse single layer in the pot to brown. Adjust the heat so the beef sizzles and browns but does not burn. Cook until all sides are a rich brown, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large plate and repeat with all remaining beef.

5. When all beef is browned, set the pot over medium heat, add the shallots, season with pepper, and saute until they begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add the brandy and let it boil away. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbes de provence (whatever that is), stirring to incorporate, and saute for another 1 minute. Add the wine, stirring, and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge carmelized drippings, and bring to a boil.

6. Pour in the liquid from the tomatoes, holding the tomatoes back with your hand. Then, one by one, crush the tomatoes with your hand over the pot and drop them in.

7. Add the orange zest, and return the beef (and bacon, if using) to the pot. Add the carrots, bring to a simmer, cover and put in oven.

8. Cook the stew, stirring every 45 minutes, until the meat is fork-tender (all trace of toughness should be gone), 2-3 hours.

9. Sprinkle with parsley (if you want) before serving).

This stew tastes even better if you make it the night before you plan to eat it and let it sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors meld together.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but here  is what’s left after we ate most of it.

That’s it! Make some mashed potatoes or rice to soak up the sauce, pour yourself a nice glass of red wine, and enjoy!

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One Comment to “Beef Stew”

  1. Sar, I didn’t even know about this blog till now, but I love reading your writing and I love hearing about what you’re cooking. Mwa.

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