In Season: Stewing. In a Good Way!

Posted at 5:00 AM Nov 19, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

Much like Melrose Place the Sequel, I find stews simultaneously repellent and attractive: the name (of both, really) alone ushers in fond/stifling memories of childhood and adolescence; lovely/unnecessary attention to a few ingredients; cheap cuts; hours of time spent. Gone!

But stew done right (on the big screen or your biggest burner) can offer more nourishment, bounty and certainly ambrosial scrumptiousness at recession-friendly prices. And once the chopping is done, the meal cooks--and cooks and cooks--itself. The key is buying a cut of really cheap meat and braising the hell out of it.

Make sure you really crank up the heat on the pot before you introduce the meat. The brown crust will provide oodles of flavor and set the right tone for a 2-3 hour soak in delicious juices, which will not only lock in the flavor, but also tenderize even the cheapest cuts of meat.

Also: when searing different sides of the meat, grip it carefully with tongs or two heat-proof spatulas. Don't pierce it and let any of the piquant goodness ooze out.

Recipe: Stewing. In a Good Way!

Serves 4 with leftovers

2 T olive oil
3 pounds beef, boneless chuck roast ideally
Salt and pepper
1 T butter
1 T flour
2 peeled carrots, finely chopped
2 peeled parsnips, finely chopped
2 peeled celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large leek, cleaned carefully and sliced thin
5 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
½ C red wine
Enough chicken stock to cover the meat (about 4 cups - you can substitute water or vegetable stock)
1 bay leaf
3 parsley stems (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
1 sprig rosemary (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
1 sprig thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
OPTIONAL: 2 more chopped carrots, parsnips and celery stalks, plus 2 of your favorite potatoes cleaned and cut into bite-sized chunks.

  • Season the meat with salt and pepper for at least 5 hours and store in the fridge. An hour before you're going to start cooking, remove it from the fridge.
  • Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or sturdy stock pot.
  • When hot, hot, hot, but not smoking, add the meat and prepare for a major sizzle. Let it sear and brown for about 4 minutes (don't panic and flip it too soon - you'll lose flavor that way quickly - if the meat's sticking, let it cook for another 30 seconds or so and try again). Repeat on all sides of the meat.
  • Add the butter and flour, making sure all sides of the meat are coated.
  • Add the vegetables and garlic plus a little more salt and pepper, sauté for a few minutes.
  • Add the red wine and cook it down to about ¼ of a cup. Add the stock and the herbs. Bring that puppy up to a boil, reduce it to a low simmer, slap a cover on and go relax in front of the TV with your stories.
  • Check on it every once in a while, carefully flipping the meat.
  • OPTIONAL: in a separate pot of boiling, salted water, cook the extra veggies until al dente. Drain and reserve.
  • After 2 ½ hours, take the meat out and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Slice it up.
  • Meanwhile, throw that lovely braising liquid through a strainer in batches, getting all of the juicy goodness out of the veggies and discard. Keep the liquid, pour it back in the pot, add the meat. Add the optional vegetables if you like and bring to a simmer. It's ready!
  • Eat and enjoy.


Wendy said:


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