Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Beef Stew Trials

Beef Stew

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.

Filthy Vegetables

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.

Don't We Clean Up Well?

Don’t We Clean Up Well?

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.

Beef Stew
Adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen
Serves 8

1¾ lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
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.


ffwd: go-with-everything celery root purée

Celery Root Puree

I hope that everyone had a lovely Christmas holiday! It’s hard to believe Friday has rolled around again already. This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is Go-With-Everything Celery Root Purée, a bland-looking side dish that’s full of surprises.

Remember Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the ugly duckling? Each time I cook with celeriac, I’m reminded of that tale. Celery root isn’t much to look at. It’s knurly with dirt stuck in its multitude of wrinkles. The small supply on offer is usually stashed in an out-of-the-way spot in the market, never proudly on display. Honestly, celeriac looks downright unpromising.

Ugly Duckling of the Vegetable World

Ugly Duckling of the Vegetable World

For this recipe, chunks of celery root, russet potato, and onion are simmered in a mix of milk and water. I have to say that it looked sort of revolting as the vegetables cooked. I’m not sure whether the milk is strictly necessary, but I did have it on hand. I’m curious whether anyone else cooked their vegetables in all water or a broth and water mix instead.

Once the vegetables are tender, they are drained then pureed in the food processor. Chunks of butter are added to finish the puree before seasoning with salt and white pepper.

Pureeing celery root in my brand new food processor

Pureeing celery root in my brand new food processor

This was the first recipe I made in my new Cuisinart. My original Cuisinart, which I’ve had for over 25 years, has been failing. I don’t like to be so attached to an inanimate object, but after we’ve made hundreds (thousands?) of recipes together, the parting is sad. I suspect you understand.

That ugly duckling celery root was transformed into a beautiful swan. The end result is a gorgeous bowl of what appears to be smooth mashed potatoes. A bite reveals something else entirely. The celeriac adds more than a hint of celery flavor for a most interesting side that goes with everything.

What did it go with at my house? I made a beef stew with a variety of root vegetables (more on that later this weekend). I served the stew over the celery root puree in wide shallow bowls for a satisfying meal on a cold winter’s night.


I don’t cook with celery root often, but each time I do, I think I should make a point of using it more.

I’m looking forward to reading about what my fellow FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe. Check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie.

You can find this recipe online here, courtesy of WHYY, creator of one of my favorite public radio shows Fresh Air with Terry Gross. You can also find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

I wish you all a Happy New Year! And for my Dorista friends, I look forward to continue cooking with you in 2013!