Making a stew at the height of Spring season is unusual for me but there is a story behind it.
Last week I asked my daughter to bring some things from the store, including a sirloin steak for shish kebabs. If the meat was on sale, she was to buy extra. I could always make a stew for one of the nights she came home late from work. As a caveat, let me tell you that if you think husbands are bad about going to the store, she is worse. You can give her a list of five things to bring, all written out ,and she will forget three. I've come to think that perhaps she tends to "forget" things she doesn't care for and have watched out for this. But no, no matter what I ask for, she apparently zones out or claims to "forget" the list.
In any event, this time she nailed it and I was ecstatic when she came home with everything I had asked for since it was a fairly long list. A couple of days later I decided to rearrange the freezer and sure enough there was the sirloin steak for shish kebabs. I was surprised as I moved to the refrigerator to find a small tray of meat still in a grocery bag. When I opened it, it was beef stew meat with a "Sale By" date two days later. Oh dear, I thought, she must have misunderstood and bought that awful stew meat instead of the extra sirloin I had asked for to make a stew. Better cook it tonight so it won't go to waste.
The pieces were cut fairly small and instead of making a beef bourguignone, I decided to try a recipe I had seen by Jacques Pepin. The method reminded me of the one Lidia Bastianich uses in her Beef Goulash for the Pope. The stew did not include water or beef bouillon and cooked at a fairly low temperature for a relatively long period of time. That was what I needed, for "beef stew" meat is amongst the toughest you can find on the shelves. To boot, I had everything required in the recipe, including the pancetta and the small onions. Jackpot!
The stew was everything I expected. The flavor was concentrated and sublime. The meat one of the tenderest I have ever tasted in a stew. I accompanied it with pasta and it was perfect for an early Spring dinner. We were both delighted. Awhile later, as I was relaxing in front of the TV, I heard her go to the refrigerator and close the door. "Gee Mom, I do hope you realize you just cooked the meat I had bought for the dogs. It was really good, though!"
Well, all I can say is that if it was outstanding with meat meant for the dogs, imagine how it will turn out if you make it with a fairly decent cut. Just goes to show, you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a really good meal. For less than four dollars, we had dinner for two with leftovers for another night. Not bad.
|No words can express my disappointment in those two. Sad, really sad...|
Recipe after the break.
Spring Beef Stew
2 pounds beef from the flatiron part of the shoulder
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon flour
1 bottle of red wine
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
15 cipollini or pearl onions
15 cremini mushrooms
15 baby carrots
5-ounce piece of pancetta
1/4 cup water
Dash of sugar
Chopped fresh parsley
1. Buy about 2 pounds of beef from the flatiron part of the shoulder. Remove the skin or sinew from the top. Alternatively, use lean beef chuck in the same manner. Cut the meat into 8 pieces.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast-iron pot that is attractive enough for the table. Arrange the meat in one layer in the pot, and season it with salt and pepper. Cook on top of the stove over high heat for about 8 minutes, browning the meat on all sides.
3. Add 1 cup of finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic. Cook over moderate heat for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tablespoon of flour. Mix in well so that the flour doesn't form lumps. Stir in 1 bottle of red wine. Add 2 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir well and cover.
4. Place the pot in the oven and continue to cook for about 1 1/2 hours; the meat should be soft and tender and the liquid properly reduced. The recipe can be prepared to this point up to a day ahead.
5. For the garnishes, peel 15 cipollini or pearl onions, wash 15 cremini mushrooms and peel 15 baby carrots. For the lardons, you will need one 5-ounce piece of pancetta. Bring the pancetta and 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and simmer for about 30 minutes; drain. Cut the pancetta into 1/2-inch slices and then cut the slices into 1-inch-wide lardons.
6. Combine the onions, mushrooms, carrots and pancetta in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 cup of water and a good dash each of sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes; at this point, there should be practically no water left. Uncover and cook over high heat, sautéing the vegetables until nicely browned on all sides, about 4 minutes.
7. To serve, mix some of the vegetables and lardons into the stew and sprinkle the rest on top as a garnish. Add a little chopped fresh parsley and serve.
Recipe adapted from Jacques Pepin