I want to like beef stew, I really do. I try different recipes, all different variations, and more often than not, I’m underwhelmed. With another cold winter ahead, it seems like I should figure out how to make a beef stew I enjoy.
Did I mention that we bought a winter CSA share? Because it was all storage vegetables, it was a one-time pickup. In early December, we picked up bags and bags of onions, shallots, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, parsnips, celery root, and (new to me) black radishes.
I thought hard about what I do and don’t like about stew. For one thing, the vegetables in most stews are just carrots and potatoes, and I realize I don’t like potatoes that have stewed for a long time. I also don’t usually like stews that are just meaty soups with a thin soupy broth.
I came up with a stew with lots of root vegetables (no potatoes) and a lovely thick gravy. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. The meat was perfectly tender, and the meat-to-vegetable ratio was exactly the way I like it. Howard liked it too.
I served the stew over the celery root puree I made for French Fridays. The texture of the creamy puree complemented the chunky stew in every bite. I might be sold on stew this time. There’s plenty of winter ahead and lots of root vegetables in the fridge, so I’ll definitely be trying this again.
Adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen
1¾ lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cloves
1 cup fruity red wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Leaves of 2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch slices
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 black radishes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (or 2 more turnips or parsnips)
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
¾ cup cold wter
1/3 cup flour
Preheat the oven to 300F.
Dry the meat with paper towels. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the meat with 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and the cloves. Heat 1½ tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. In two batches, brown the beef on all sides. Add each batch to a large Dutch oven as it finishes browning. Add more oil, if needed.
Add the wine, stock, bay leaf, and thyme to the Dutch oven with the browned beef. Bring it to a simmer (not a boil). Taste for seasoning. Cover the Dutch oven and place in to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 250F and cook for another hour.
About 15 minutes before the hour is up, in a skillet over medium heat, add another 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Gently cook the onions, garlic, celery, and carrots sprinkled with salt, stirring frequently, until they start to soften, but not brown (about 5 minutes). Add the remaining vegetables and another sprinkle of salt, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Place the cold water and flour in a jar. Shake well until it is well-combined.
Add the slurry along with the vegetables to the Dutch oven. Stir everything together, and replace the pot in the oven. Cook for another 40 minutes. The gravy will thicken as the vegetables cook through. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.
Serve over celery root puree or another accompaniment of your choice.
Happy November! We weathered Hurricane Sandy safe and sound. We never lost power, and no trees fell on anything nearby. My heart goes out to everyone on the Eawt Coast who didn’t fare as well. The recent extreme weather patterns are downright scary. Anyone who says there’s not such thing as climate change is delusional. While Sandy might have been the Storm of the Century, rising sea levels and warming ocean temperatures certainly contributed to making this hurricane extra powerful.
We managed to win the annual challenge of waiting until November to turn on the heat. The weather has been so mild, temperature wise, that it wasn’t even a stretch. The forecast shows daytime highs only in the 40s and freezing overnight temperatures coming this weekend, so the heat will be on soon.
Colder weather calls for comfort food. Lovely autumn vegetables were calling out to me during a stroll through the l0cal farm stand. I came home with leeks, anise, , sweet potatoes, and parsnips. I already had carrots, butternut squash and potatoes at home. It seemed like the colorful array of vegetables would make a gorgeous pot pie.
I diced the squash and root vegetables into small pieces and, separately, steamed them until just tender. Then, I sautéed the leeks and anise until they softened. The steamed vegetables were gently folded in along with a generous handful of chopped sage and thyme. Everything was bound together with a velouté made with vegetable stock. I turned the vegetable filling into a baking dish and topped it with a thin biscuit-like crust. I baked the pot pie until the filling was bubbly and the topping was lightly browned.
Harvest Pot Pie
2 carrots, peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces
One quarter of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into ½ inch pieces (use 2 cups)
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces (use only 2 cups)
2 medium red potatoes, diced into ½ inch pieces
1 leek, sliced in half through the root, then sliced thin
1 head fennel, cored, quartered, then sliced thin
2 Tbsp olive oil
Generous handful of chopped fresh sage
Generous handful of chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups vegetable stock (you could use chicken stock)
Pot Pie Topping
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼+ cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350F.
One at a time, steam each of the following diced vegetables until nearly tender: carrots, parsnips, squash, sweet potato, potatoes. Each vegetable should take 5-8 minutes. As each finishes cooking, transfer to a large bowl.
In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and sauté until it starts to soften. Add the anise and continue cooking until tender. Add to steamed vegetables and stir to combine.
To make the veloute, in a saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the flour is cooked and lightly golden. Slowly whisk in the stock. Cook over medium high heat until the sauce thickens, about 5 more minutes.
Pour the sauce over the vegetables. Add the chopped herbs and gently stir to combine. Transfer the filling to a baking dish. I use a 12×7 pan, but you could with 13×9.
Prepare the Pot Pie topping. In the food processor, pulse together flour, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles sand. Add ¼ cup of milk, and pulse until the mixture comes together as a dough.
Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a size that will fit on top of the filling. Place topping over the filling. Brush with milk. Cut a few slits for steam to escape.
Bake for about 30 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is lightly golden.
It was the perfect thing to eat while waiting for trick-or-treaters to come by for candy.
Last, but not least, I’m pleased to announce the winner in the honey giveaway. I used a list randomizer to select the winner. Candy of Dulce’s Home wins a jar of my newly harvested backyard honey. I’ll be touch to get your address so I can send the honey your way. Congratulations, Candy!