Saturday, January 14, 2012

Beef Stew

The Weather Channel is forecasting a rare snow storm. Embarrassingly, I must admit that it briefly crossed my mind to rush out to the store and stock up on canned goods. Then I remembered that we live in a big city and have lots of friends nearby. Plus we don't really eat a lot of canned food and in the worst case scenario, we will be making pasta from scratch for dinner. Worst, worst case scenario, we will have to cook it on our camp stove.

Today it is sunny but very cold. Along with the cold weather come requests from my family for beef stew, which is one of the easiest comfort foods to make. Give it a tasty savory liquid as a base, throw in some root vegetables along with the meat and you are golden. People walking into your house from the frosty outdoors will sigh with happiness at the permeating smell that speaks to winter warmth, being inside, and all the comfort of a bowl of beef stew. This is one variation I make, it is easy to get creative once you have made it a couple of times.

Beef Stew
Serves 4 - 6

2 T Olive Oil
2 - 2.5 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 onions, peeled and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 T flour
3/4 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups water
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
salt and pepper
10 carrots, peeled and chopped - do this while the meat is simmering
1.5 lbs baby white potatoes, peeled - do this while the meat is simmering
3/4 lbs haricot verts, washed and trimmed (optional)

Sprinkle the meat liberally with salt and pepper.

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sear the meat in batches, without crowding the pan. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Repeat this process until all the meat is seared.

Turn the heat down to medium low and add the onions. Cook, stirring, until the onion starts to soften and look translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Sprinkle the flour and cook for about two minutes, stirring to coat the onions.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine has reduced by approximately half and the sauce has started to thicken.

Add the broth, water, thyme, Worcestershire Sauce and meat to the pan, including all the juices that have gathered in the bottom of the bowl holding the meat. Turn up the heat and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. The meat should feel fairly tender when pierced with a fork. Occasionally scrape the top of the broth to remove the scum that will gather while the stew is simmering.

Add the potatoes and carrots. Bring back to a simmer, taste and adjust for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the carrots and potato are cooked through and tender but not falling apart.

If you wish to add the haricots, add them right before serving. Stir them in, bring the stew back to a simmer and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

It is nice served with a crusty french bread.

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