THIS WEEK’S RECIPE: VERSATILE BEEF STEW
There are two things I always forget about this recipe: 1) that it takes what feels like ten years to make, but 2) it’s worth it, because it feeds my household for days—and it’s delicious. I use The Joy of Cooking as my starting point, but the beauty is that, maybe more than any other dish in my repertoire, what goes into it—from the choice of veggies and herbs to the type of liquid used—transforms the final product, with results anywhere from bright and grassy to deep and earthy.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Makes about 10 servings
» 1 lb boneless stew meat (Joy calls for 2 lbs, but I like less meat and more veggies, initially because I was cheap but ultimately for flavor)
» 4 Tbsp olive oil
» ½ cup all-purpose flour
» 1 onion, chopped
» 4 carrots, chopped
» 2 Tbsp chopped garlic
» 2 bay leaves
» 2 tsp each dried thyme and oregano (or other spices, such as basil and cilantro)
» 2 to 3 cups simmering liquid: chicken stock, red or white wine, or beer (The liquid you choose is perhaps the key determining factor in your outcome. Red wine produces a sweet, meaty broth that’s dark in color. Most recently I used PBR left over from a party—What? I said I was cheap—and the result was zesty and yeasty. Yum.)
» 4 to 5 medium potatoes
» 2 turnips
» 3 parsnips
» 1 large celeriac (Here’s the final variable. These veggies are what I used last week, but the sky’s the limit. Celeriac added a tangy note and let me omit diced celery earlier in the process, while parsnips brought some heat.)
» salt and pepper
WHAT TO DO
Pat the beef dry and cut into 1 ½-inch cubes. Season with 1 tsp each of your spices, salt, and pepper, then dredge in flour. Shake off excess. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to a large Dutch oven and bring to medium-high heat. Brown the meat on all sides in batches. Remove and set aside.
If you’re left with more than 2 Tbsp fat when finished, drain it off; otherwise (more likely) add 2 Tbsp olive oil, the onion, 1 carrot, and the garlic, and cook, stirring often, over medium-high until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, 1 more tsp of each of the herbs, and ½ tsp each salt and pepper. Return the meat to the pot and add enough wine, beer, or broth to cover the meat at least halfway (usually at least 2 cups) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the meat is tender, at least 1 ½ hours. (Skimping on the liquid or the time will result in tough meat, which is no way to treat your stew—or your dinner guests.)
Now’s a good time to chop the next few ingredients—or, if you chopped everything at the outset, you fancypants you, treat yourself to some of the leftover booze. Roughly cut the remaining carrots, as well as your other veggies, into 1-inch chunks. Throw in the pot, cover, and cook until tender, about 40 minutes. You may need to add more liquid; water is fine. Remove from heat. Dish ’er up.
This stew lives pretty happily in the fridge for a few days, which is about how long it takes a household of two to drain the pot. And since you spent so much time building up that rich flavor, adding plain old water works fine for subsequent reheatings. Although if you prefer PBR, don’t let me stop you.
With many farm shares winding down for the season, we’ve put the CSA Cookoff to bed for the year. Look for it again in late spring, sprouting along with the arugula and asparagus. In the meantime, meet HOME Cooked, a winter-friendly recipe file that revels in the earthier corners of the fridge and the pantry. Think root veggies and baked goods. We’ll post a recipe each week, featuring dishes from you. Don’t be shy. Share the goods. Especially the baked goods.