Monday, March 22, 2010
The calender may say spring has sprung but here in Colorado, that just means that our snowy season has begun! The day that I made this stew we got 4 inches of snow. With snow in the air stew needs to be on the stove! What's better for the husband to come home to after a long day of work, and even longer drive home in the snow, than a pot of chunky beef stew?
When choosing meat for the stew choose chuck cuts. Do NOT choose 'stew meat'. 'Stew meat' is just scraps left over from the butchery process and that meat tends to be very rubbery & chewy, filled with excess fat & gristle, not my idea of a good stew! Round cuts (top round, bottom round roast) all are very lean but they dry out & get chalky when cooked in stew. Avoid them. Chuck is the best cut for this process, it has lots of beefy flavor and is ideal for long slow cooking processes, that allows the meat to break down & become very tender.
One of my big beefs (pun intended) with stew is chewy flabby flavorless meat. I won't stand for it! The Kitchen Witches' stew is exceptionally tender as a result of the cut of meat, the red wine and the long slow braising process. The red wine is essential: it helps to tenderize the meat, in addition to bringing lots of flavor to the dish. The acids & enzymes in the wine help to break down & tenderize the beef, resulting in nice soft pieces.
makes 8 servings
3-5 lbs Chuck roast, cut into 1-2 in cubes
Kosher salt & pepper (about 2T salt, if using table salt use 1/2 as much)
3-4 carrots, peeled & sliced
3-4 ribs celery, sliced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 t thyme leaves, dry or 4 stems fresh
3 bay leaves
3/4 bottle burgundy red wine (about 4 cups if you're using a boxed variety like me)
4 c water or beef broth (I used water, out of broth)
1/2 cup frozen peas
2-3 potatoes, peeled & diced
1T oil for sautee
Cut the roast into 1-2 in cubes, discarding any excess fat & connective tissues. Pat dry with paper towels, this helps with browning. Season beef cubes with salt & pepper (1T salt & 1/2 t ground pepper) and toss in the EVOO just before sautee.
Heat large soup pan over med hi heat, once hot add beef in a single layer and brown. You'll probably have to do this 3-4 times (kind of a pain but the flavor pay off is worth it). Don't crowd the pan, cubes shouldn't be touching, that causes the meat to steam & not brown, resulting in grey meat. yuck! Once cubes are browned remove & set aside. Repeat with remaining beef until done. Don't worry about the yucky brown stuff on the bottom of the pan, that's your fond, AKA flavor :)
Once meat has been browned, add onions, carrots & celery to pan. Stir. Add wine & scrape bottom of pan with wooden spoon to release all the cooked on brown bits. Add the thyme, garlic & bay, stir well. Add the beef back to the pan and add 3/4 of the beef broth, stir well. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours. Taste stew hourly for seasoning, keeping in mind the flavors change as it cooks, and the salt tends to cook out somewhat. Add more salt & pepper accordingly.
After 2-3 hours of simmering add your diced potatoes, stir well, recover and cook about 30 min longer or until potatoes are soft.
Add the frozen peas, stir them into the stew and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaves, ladle into bowls and enjoy!