Wicked Awesome Beef Stew
Loosely based on this recipe from Epicurious.
This better be good considering how much effort goes into making it! I spent twenty minutes Sunday morning getting intimate with a beef chuck roast, trimming the fat and cutting it into bite sized pieces. It yielded about 3 lbs of meat and a pound of fat and gristle. I wish I knew what to do with that pound of odds and ends, but I don't. I was glad that I took the time to do it myself, because it did come out much better than the last package of cheap-o stew beef I bought. Anyway...
These one inch cubes of beef were tossed with about half a cup of flour, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed thyme. Then I browned them in batches in bacon grease and olive oil. That browning process took about half an hour. In between batches, I scraped the browned bits off the bottom of the pan and saved them in a coffee cup, I will add them back in later and they will help thicken the sauce.
After all the meat was browned and set aside on a platter, I sauteed 6 cloves of garlic, one onion, carrott and 2 celery stalks, all cut up, in the same pan, till they got kinda brown and soft. These veggies are the flavor basis for the sauce. Then I cooked about 3 tablespoons of tomato paste in there till it started to brown, and then stirred in a goodly splash of red wine vinegar. Once that cooks together for a minute I poured in a whole bottle of red wine, 2 bay leaves and a teaspoon of thyme. That boiled for a bit till it reduced by more than half.
While the wine was boiling down, I had Keith chop up the stew veggies. There were 6 medium yellow potatoes, 4 turnips, a couple of carrots, and a couple of parsnips. Those I tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and spread onto my trusty baking sheet to roast while the meat was braising. The recipe says add them to the pot during the last 40 minutes of cooking, but I really like the texture and depth of flavor roasting gives to root vegetables. These took about 40 minutes to get nice and crispity.
In the end the roast veggies went into the pot with the meat and wine and all that went into my crock pot, which went into a basket lined with a towel. This basket Keith bravely carried on his lap in the front seat of the pickup. When we turned into the bakery parking lot to pick up the bread, the stew sloshed out of the crock pot and through the towel and right into my husband's lap. Luckily, it wasn't a lot, it didn't burn him, and he had a good sense of humor about it. Must figure out a better way to transport soup!
We ate it in sourdough bread bowls alongside the Mushroom Bisque Seester made, for FourthChristmas. It was indeed wicked awesome.