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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Beef Stew/November Gimmick

November is National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo) and No Shave November. Nanowrimo is off the table this year, since I am barely blogging or emailing anyone and get tired just thinking of writing a novel. As for No Shave November, I think I'll pass but many guys around here are starting their winter beards. My gimmick for November is to cook recipes from Cook's Illustrated (CI) and blog about them.
I've been subscribing for years, and I have the cookbooks and use them often. But somehow I rarely get around to cooking the recipes from the magazines, even though they usually come out really good. It's not that I don't want to, but there's a disconnect between my bathtime magazine reading and my dinnertime cooking. When I search for recipes I tend to go to the cookbooks or internet, not the magazines. My plan is to cook one or two recipes per week until I get tired of doing so.
The first recipe I tried was beef stew. Now, I've never been really pleased with my attempts at beef stew. I found them bland and runny. The Cook's Illustrated recipe claimed to get around the first problem with judicious use of glutamate containing ingredients like tomato paste, salt pork and anchovies - blech! The second problem was solved by a combination of flour and gelatine. I used my judgement and tweaked the recipe a lot. I added a lot of mushrooms and dash of soy sauce, which should add glutamates, and left out the tomato paste, salt pork and anchovies, as well as the pearl onions. (I have nothing against tomato paste but didn't have any lying around.) So anyway, without further ado, here's the modified recipe.

Old Biddy's Beef Stew with Wine and Mushrooms
3 lbs beef, cut into 1 - 1 1/2 inch chunks (I used precut stew meat but CI recommends a chuck roast)
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, quartered and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 lb root vegetables, cut into 1/2" slices (I used parsnips but carrots would work fine)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups red wine (I used burgundy)
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 lb red potatoes, cut into 1" pieces
12 oz mushrooms, quartered (I used baby portabellas)
2 cups frozen peas
1 packet gelatine, softened with 1/4 c cold water
salt, pepper and soy sauce to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F and put a rack in the middle. In large dutch oven (no, not THAT kind of dutch oven!), brown the beef. You should split it into two portions and use about 1 tablespoon olive oil for each batch. When the second batch is done, dump in the onions and root veggies and cook until the onions are soft (several minutes) Add the garlic and saute briefly until aromatic (30s), and then add the flour. Stir until the flour has coated the meat/veggies (30s) and then add the wine and broth. Bring to a boil and add the bay leaves and potatoes. Cover and put it in the oven. After about an hour, add the mushrooms. Cook for another hour or so until everything is soft enough, and then remove from the oven. Place pot on stove and bring to a simmer. Add peas and gelatine. Cook for 3 minutes or so until peas aren't cold and the mixture has thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a dash of soy sauce.

Anyway, it smelled really good while it was cooking and did not disappoint me - it was everything I was aiming for, flavor and texture wise. It was very thick and had a nice beefy/winy flavor - sort of like beef burgundy. The beef was nice and tender and stringy in that tasty stew way. I probably could've added the potatoes later, when I added the mushrooms. They got really soft and fell apart, but it did help thicken things.
Next time I'll use more mushrooms and root veggies, and I'll probably make it on a slightly larger scale since it came out so well and makes prime leftovers.

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