Thursday, January 3, 2008

January 3: Two Beef Stews

My best friend is pregnant, just at the start of her second trimester. I am so thrilled I can barely stand it; I would not have been more excited if I were pregnant myself. I remember what it was like to be pregnant--tired all the time, food holding less than no appeal--and yet I know she's interested in food and cooking, if for no other reason than she has to fuel herself and her husband.

I received the following email from her today:
"You need to post a beef stew recipe on your kitchen blog tomorrow. I am a vegetarian. turns out, my baby is not, and I'm craving red meat like you just have no idea. Red meat and milk. Go figure. So I want to make beef stew and I have no clue about how to do it. And if you have a good cornbread or cornbread muffin recipe to go with it, that would be good too. Just, you know, supporting your endeavors and all."

As it turns out, I have just the thing for you, Kimberly. Two beef stews, both delicious, both from America's Test Kitchen. This is their Hearty Beef Stew recipe, with a few modifications. It's simple and straightforward and classic. It serves six to eight.

3 pounds stew meat, or chuck roast cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped coarse (about 2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup dry red wine, like burgandy or pinot noir
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 small boiling potatoes, peeled and halved
4 large carrots , peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place beef cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat in large nonreactive Dutch oven; add beef to kettle in two separate batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch, adding remaining tablespoon of oil if needed. Remove meat and set aside. Add onions to now empty kettle; sauté until almost softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; continue to sauté about 30 seconds longer. Stir in flour; cook until lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to kettle. Add stock, bay leaves, and thyme; bring to simmer. Add meat; return to simmer. Cover and place in oven; simmer about 1 hour.

2. Remove Dutch oven from oven, add potatoes and carrots, cover, and return to oven. Simmer until meat is just tender, about 1 hour. Remove stew from oven. (Can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to 3 days.)

3. Add peas and allow to stand 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, adjust seasonings, and serve.

Let me just say this: I know you don't have a Dutch oven, Kimberly, and the reason I know you don't is because your Dutch oven is still in a box in my pantry. I keep forgetting to give it to you. You can make this on the stove top too, just keep it at a barely bubbling simmer. You can also make it in a slow-cooker: just brown the meat first and simmer it on low for a couple of hours, then add the potatoes and carrots and simmer it for a couple more hours, then the peas just before serving.

The next recipe, also from America's Test Kitchen, is my favorite beef stew recipe. I love to serve this over garlic mashed potatoes when I am feeling very ambitious, and when I'm not, buttered egg noodles. I want to emphasize the necessity of finding blade steaks for this recipe--they are tender and beautifully marbled and a little bit of a pain to prep for this. It involves trimming the meat away from a line of gristle that runs through the center of each steak. It is worth it. It serves six.

Carbonnade a la Flamande—Belgian Beef, Beer, and Onion Stew
3 1/2 pounds blade steaks , 1 inch thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 1-inch pieces Table salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 medium), halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cups beer (12-ounce bottle or can) -- a dark or amber ale works best
4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees. Dry beef thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke; add about one-third of beef to pot. Cook without moving pieces until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes; using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until second side is well browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer browned beef to medium bowl. Repeat with additional 2 teaspoons oil and half of remaining beef. (If drippings in bottom of pot are very dark, add about 1/2 cup of above-listed chicken or beef broth and scrape pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; pour liquid into bowl with browned beef, then proceed.) Repeat once more with 2 teaspoons oil and remaining beef.

2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty Dutch oven; reduce heat to medium-low. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and tomato paste; cook, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until onions have released some moisture, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in broths, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits; stir in beer, thyme, bay, vinegar, browned beef with any accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to full simmer, stirring occasionally; cover partially, then place pot in oven. Cook until fork inserted into beef meets little resistance, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

3. Discard thyme and bay. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve. (Can be cooled and refrigerated in airtight container for up to 4 days; reheat over medium-low heat.)

As for the cornbread or corn muffins you asked about, America's Test Kitchen, whose opinions I have a great deal of confidence in, has tested different brands and suggest two: Jiffy Brand, which comes in a blue-and-white box, and Betty Crocker, which comes in a pouch. I have to admit to you that I am not a fan of cornbread, and not the best source of information on the subject.

Not, however, that not being an expert on a subject has ever stopped me from giving my opinion. It's a problem.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

You rock, Molly! Thanks. Given my limited skill with cooking meat, I'll probably try the first one. Sounds delicious. I'll let you know how it goes. If I move to Maryland, will you cook for me every night?