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Beef Stew


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Beef Stew

Serves 8 as Main Dish.

Ok this stew is almost to the letter a direct lift from The New Best Recipe which is a compilation from the Cook's Illustrated people. Good book.

You'll need a half hour for prep, about a half-hour of active cook time after that, then 2-3 hours in the oven, so do this on a weekend. It's not that time or labor intensive, but you need to be around.

Please note, I am writing this for a relative that doesn't cook much, so please excuse the detailed explanation of some of the basics, like mise en place. To see the instructions with the detailed recipe steps and pictures, go to the original post.

3 lbs (1.5 kg) chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch (3.5 cm) cubes. (See note)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 T vegetable oil

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

1 rib celery, medium dice

3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press

3 T unbleached all-purpose flour

1 c. full-bodied dry red wine

1 T Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce

2 c. low-sodium chicken broth (I used homemade beef stock, because I'm a fag like that, but canned chicken broth is fine.)

2 bay leaves (make sure they have some smell to them, if they don't smell citrusy, throw them out, they've been in your cupboard for years, get some fresh ones.)

1 tsp dried thyme (ditto)

4 medium red potatoes, (about 1.5 lbs [2/3 kg]) peeled and cut into 1 inch (2 cm) chunks

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick rounds (about 1 lb [1/2 kg])

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Open the wine and let it breathe.

Note about the beef: While you can buy pre-cut "stew meat" at most grocery stores, I wouldn't. That meat is usually going to be bottom round, which has almost no intramuscular fat, meaning the texture will be dry, and the flavor is not nearly as rich and beefy as the shoulder muscles. Ever had a beef stew with tough, dry little nubs of meat in it? That's bottom round.

Grab a chuck roast, pull it apart along its natural separations, and trim off any silverskin and large pieces of fat and gristle. It really doesn't take that long, it's not that complicated, and the finished stew will really benefit from the effort. Ok, good!

Peel and chunk potatoes into one inch pieces. (To keep them from browning, put them in a larger bowl than this and cover with cold water.) Put a medium dice on the celery and onion. I peel and cut carrots into round pieces, 1/4 inch thick.

Wash, dry, and mince the parsley. Peel and mince the garlic.

Measure out the thyme and get the bay leaves out. See we're getting everything together before cooking? This is called getting your "mise en place" together, which is just a fancy french way of saying "setting in place." It makes cooking a lot easier and more fun if you aren't scrambling with the prep while your garlic is burning in the pan!

Here is one of the natural separations in the chuck roast. Just grab with two hands and pull it apart! Then trim the excess fat and gristle off the pieces. Cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Turn the oven on to preheat; set it for 300F (150C).

Sprinkle the beef liberally with salt and pepper, and toss with your hands to get it all coated. I'm going to guess that I used two teaspoons of each.

Heat one tbsp of oil over med-hi heat in the largest heavy-bottom pot you have, preferably a six or eight quart enameled iron dutch oven. Put in as much meat as you can without crowding. Don't fiddle with the meat for a few minutes. Let it brown 2-3 minutes before turning.

Flip 'em over with tongs, brown the other side another 3-5 minutes. They'll be giving up some juice at this point, which is why you don't want to crowd them, or they won't brown, they'll steam.

Remove the pieces to a bowl.

Add another tbsp of oil, brown the next batch exactly the same way. Note the brown gunk accumulating on the bottom of the pot. The french call this "fond" and it's very important to the flavor of the dish.

Put the rest of the meat in the bowl, add the last tbsp of oil, drop the heat to medium, then add the onion and celery and a teaspoon of salt.

Stir occasionally as the onion softens, scraping the bottom of the pot as you go. A wooden spoon is the best thing for this, or a flat-bottomed wooden spatula like I'm using here. Sweat the onion and celery 4-5 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of wine!

The juices from the onion and celery have dissolved a lot of the fond at this point. Add the garlic and sweat another minute or so.

Add the flour and stir and scrape constantly, distributing the flour evenly through the vegetables. The flour will take a light brown color after a minute or so. As soon as that happens, add the wine, a little at a time, stirring constantly to get it incorporated with the roux and vegetables.

Let it keep cooking, stirring and scraping, until it gets kind of thick. Add the worcestershire.

Add the stock gradually, keep stirring!

Add the thyme and bay leaf, bring the stew to a simmer.

Put the meat back in, and any juices from the meat bowl. Bring it to a simmer again. Then cover with the lid and stick it in the oven. Kick back and enjoy your wine. Leave it in the oven for an hour.

After an hour, take it out, drain the potatoes, and add the potato and carrot. Mix 'em up, and put it back in the oven for another hour and fifteen minutes.

At this point, a few things are going to depend on the ingredients. The original recipe I'm following says an hour, but 15 minutes more were often required. My run took almost two hours. Just check it every 20 minutes or so. The meat should be tender, and the potatoes cooked through. You'll really notice a difference between "almost done" meat and the tender deliciousness when it hits the sweet spot. Pierce a larger piece of potato with a fork to make sure they're cooked through as well.

When it does, take it out and give it a stir. Mine was a little too thin for my tastes, so I smashed 2-3 pieces each of potato and carrot with the wooden spoon and stirred them through the stew to thicken it up a little more. Taste and adjust the seasoning at this point. Does it need salt and pepper? If so, add it now.

Add the peas, stir, and re-cover the pot. Let it stand for 5 minutes to heat the peas.

Stir in the parsley and serve immediately!

Keywords: Main Dish, Beef

( RG1665 )

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