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Weekend Recap + A Recipe

November 2, 2009


A few of my favorite things from the weekend:
1. Crisp, sunny weather in the 60’s.
2. Lilly’s first train ride on the Zephyr at Zilker Park. Wheeee!
3. A delicious mexican dinner at Chuy’s with lots of chips and salsa for everyone.
4. Buzzing around the old neighborhood for trick or treating and seeing old neighbors.
5. Spiced cider with a kick.
6. Beef stew served over polenta.
7. Watching football.
8. Moving the clock back an hour.
9. Homemade guacamole.
10. Wearing sandals in November.

Stew is comfort food at its finest. The ingredients are inexpensive and it’s easy to prepare. I’ve made beef stew over the years using many different recipes and have never had a ‘go to’ recipe. This weekend I pulled out Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food (one of the few cookbooks I didn’t put into storage) and finally found my ‘go to’ for beef stew. This recipe is a great base and be can adapted to suit your tastes with the addition of, say, potatoes or turnips. Other unique suggestion from the cookbook: adding ½ cup pitted black olives the last 10 minutes of cooking. As with most recipes, the use of fresh herbs makes a simple pot of meat, vegetables and sauce something special.

Beef Stew
Adapted from Alice Waters’ recipe in The Art of Simple Food
Makes 4 hearty servings

3 pounds beef chuck, fat trimmed and cut into 1½-inch cubes
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons oil
3 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces (I used thick-cut peppered bacon)
2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters (I cut mine slightly smaller)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (I used 5 carrots, cut slightly smaller)
½ pound green beans, ends trimmed and beans cut in half
A pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
2 sprigs each of thyme, savory and parsley (I chopped mine)
1 bay leaf
A few peppercorns (I used a generous pinch of fresh ground pepper instead)
3 tablespoons brandy
1¾ cups red wine
5 diced tomatoes (I used Romas)
1 small head of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 thin strip of orange zest (I used about 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest instead)
2 cups beef or chicken stock (I used vegetable stock)

Season beef generously with salt and pepper (a day ahead, if possible). Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat and cook bacon until lightly brown but not crisp. Remove bacon and add meat in small batches, browning well on all sides. Put browned meat and bacon in a heavy pot or braising dish that has a tight-fitting lid (if you plan to cook this in the oven, make sure it is an oven-safe dish).

Remove most of the fat from the skillet (I left it in – I had very little fat since I trimmed most of it from my beef at the start), lower the heat and add onions, carrots, green beans, herbs and spices, cooking until slightly browned. Remove and add to beef in pot. Return skillet to stove and raise heat. Add brandy. This may flame up, so be careful. Add wine and cook until reduced by two-thirds, scraping browned bits from bottom. Pour this over beef and vegetables.

Add tomatoes, garlic, orange zest and stock to beef and vegetables in pot. Check level of liquid making sure it is at least three-quarters of the way up the cubes of beef. Add more if needed. Cover pot with lid and cook at a bare simmer on the stove or at 325°F in the oven for 2-3 hours. Check occasionally to make sure it is not boiling and there is enough liquid. When meat is tender, turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes. Skim off excess fat and discard the bay leaf, cloves (if you can find them!) and peppercorns. Taste and add extra salt and pepper, if needed.

I usually like potatoes in my stew, but this time I left them out and served the stew over polenta. It would also be delicious served with popovers right from the oven.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Denise permalink
    January 11, 2010 5:58 PM

    Sis, just seeing this for the very first time. Phenominal! Keep it up!

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