Yes, yes, it’s been (eep!) a month since I last posted a real recipe here. For some of that time, I was out of cooking commission, being wined and dined by friends and family in Minnesota. For most of the rest of that time, I was, I swear, cooking, but only repeats of recipes already posted here. At least, I’m pretty sure most of them were repeats. I need to print out my archives so I have a definitive list of what I’ve posted, and then devise some marking system (Post-Its?) in my cookbook (the black three-ring binder that holds all the recipes I’ve typed up, printed out, and placed in plastic page covers) to flag what’s been posted and what hasn’t. Then, hopefully, I can try to get around to making some of the not-yet-posted ones and writing them up for your reading and cooking pleasure. (Of course, part of the problem is that some of these are spring/summery meals, so I might not get around to it for a little while yet.) And, although I’m finally beginning to be content with my standard repertoire of recipes (I’ve collected a lot more non-pasta ones, so there’s starting to be a nice variety), I still need to keep cooking the occasional new recipe to keep this site going (and keep myself interested). Luckily, I got Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day from my parents for Christmas (Hi! Thank you!), and I’ve checked his other two books out from the library. And I’ve got two spanking new (spanking, I tell you) recipes coming your way this week, in honor of the new year.
The first, this beef stew, is from Martha Rose Schulman’s Ready When You Are, which has proven to be a font of consistently toothsome, but challenging and laborious, meals. This one is no exception. With its multi-step cooking and three-hour simmering time, it pretty much demands to be made on a Sunday afternoon, so that’s what I did. I was excited about it—I don’t cook with beef much, and it sounded so warm and dark and savory, with the beer and brown sugar and onions and all—and then, as I started to cook, I grew suspicious. It looked like it might be bland. It smelled odd, not quite appetizing (I blame the hickory-smoked bacon I had, my slight aversion to bacon in general, and maybe the vinegar, for this effect), and I was having a grumpy and frustrating day. As the cooking wore on, I convinced myself the result was going to be awful. Then, about midway through the simmering, I had to turn off the stove and drive out to pick up A from work. When we came home, out of the rain, suddenly the apartment smelled good to me. And when we ate, it was very good. Very beefy, though, which I’m not used to, and I spent a while contemplating whether it had really quite merited all that work, but in the end, I decided, good. And perfect for a winter day. A, a fan of all things meaty and gravy-covered, was extremely enthusiastic.
The recipe recommends serving this over rice or potatoes. I boiled a pound and a half or so of red potatoes, then put a few in each serving bowl and smashed them up with salt and pepper before pouring the stew over it. It was nice and hearty, though we had green salads on the side to balance out the meat-and-potatoeness.
Postscript, November 2010: I don't think I ever made this again, having found tastier and less labor-intensive ways to satisfy my occasional beef cravings (e.g., chili and goulash). So I'm consigning it to the "Not Favorites" category.
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
2 pounds boneless chuck or round steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ounces bacon, trimmed of some of its fat and diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar<
1½ cups dark beer
1 bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley and fresh thyme tied in cheesecloth
potatoes or rice
1. Combine the flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a small bowl and lightly dredge the meat in it. When finished, discard the unused flour mixture and set the meat aside.
2. Heat half the bacon over medium-low heat in "a large, heavy Dutch oven or flame-proof casserole" (neither of which I have, but the average Revereware soup pot seemed to do OK) until it renders its fat, i.e., starts getting greasy. Add a tablespoon of butter to this and all the onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and light brown, about 10-15 minutes. Add the sugar and stir everything together, then remove the pot from the heat.
3. While the onions are cooking, heat the rest of the bacon over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. When it's cooked, remove it from the skillet using a slotted spoon and transfer it to the pot with the onions.
4. To the bacon grease in the skillet, add the other tablespoon of butter. When it has foamed up and subsided, lay the meat cubes in the skillet (I had to do this in three batches, as they wouldn’t all fit at once) and brown them on all sides. Transfer the meat to the pot with the onions.
5. Pour off any remaining fat from the skillet (there wasn’t much when I did it) and discard it. Add the vinegar to the skillet to deglaze it, scraping all the caramelized meat bits from the bottom and pouring them into the soup pot. (At this juncture I had a very interesting adventure when I finished deglazing the pan, then looked over and realized I still had a third batch of meat to brown. Admittedly, I just plopped the skillet back on the stove, heated it up, and browned the meat in whatever vinegar and traces of fat remained, which worked well enough and I don’t think damaged the results much).
6. Add the beer (I used Guinness) and the herb bouquet (sadly, I didn’t have any cheesecloth, so I tied the bay leaf, parsley, and thyme together with a bit of thread, and then the bouquet disintegrated as it cooked so I ended up having to fish all the bits of it out before serving, but no one choked on any string or anything, so it wasn’t too bad a strategy) to the soup pot and bring everything to a simmer. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot with its lid, and simmer gently for three hours, stirring from time to time, until the meat is fork-tender and the liquid is thick.
7. Serve with steamed or mashed potatoes, or rice, and accompany with beer.
Time: About 4 hours (but only 1 hour of that is active work on your part)