January 13, 2011

Winter Beef Stew

Yesterday I had a snow day!  I knew it was going to be a pretty big one so I took the chance to do some cooking!  Now that the days are so short, it's hard for me to cook and photograph the food properly because I use natural light for my photos.  A couple weeks back I made a beef soup and it was so delicious, I thought I'd thicken it up and make it a stew.  It's great to make when you have the day to let it "stew" on the stove top! Recipe after the jump.

2 lbs stew meat (I used beef butt - okay okay you can giggle)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups beef stock (I used a frozen brand from Whole Foods that was awesome)
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
4 stalks celery
1/2 cup wine - dry white or red (whatever leftover you have from the night before) 
1 carrot chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons tomato paste (freeze the rest of the can)
1 large can diced tomatoes (drained)
1/2 butternut squash cut into bite size chunks
4-5 medium size red potatoes washed and cut into bite size chunks
2 stalks fresh rosemary finely minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
handful chopped parsley
2 tbs cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
barley - prepared per package instructions

- Trim the meat of fat and gristle and cut into bit size chunks
- Toss with flour
- In a large stock pot heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat.  Add 1/2 of beef and brown on all sides.  Remove from pot and add second half of beef, brown and remove.
- Add 1 more tbs of olive oil and add the onion and 1/2 the celery saute for 5 minutes, add garlic.
- De-glaze pot with wine cook until wine is absorbed.
- Push onions aside and add tomato paste and allow to cook for 1 minute
- Add back meat, stock, chopped herbs, remaining celery and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 - 4 hours stirring occasionally. 
- 40 minutes before serving make the barley according to directions.
- ** This step is totally optional** In a separate pot boil the potatoes & squash until tender.  I do this for two reasons.  Since I know there will be left overs I add only how many I want that serving and save the rest for the next day.  That way, they don't become too mushy & they don't absorb too much of the broth.  Have you gone to reheat soup or stew the next day to find there is barely any broth?  Problem solved!  This is also why I make the barley separate. 
-  Make a slurry with the cornstarch and a few tablespoons cold water.  Stir into stew.  This will help thicken the broth. 
-** Another note about carrots ** I know that carrots are a traditional stew ingredient.  I generally go light on the carrots to begin with in soups and stews because they can sometimes add an incredible sweetness that's not always desirable.  Another tip is to cook them separate so the extra sweetness does not flavor the broth.  In the case of this stew, I was standing looking at the carrots in the store and got distracted and forgot to get them.  Honestly with the use of the squash they weren't missed at all!!

Lauren Fister, chatNchow, chatNchow, CT, foodie