Saturday, January 23, 2010

body and soul

Friends, how are you feeling? Frankly, I've been a little blue. Winter just isn't my season. And after years of being the kind of person who could sleep through just about anything (including thunderstorms, construction sites and Batman Begins--in the theater), I've somehow become someone who wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night, grinding her teeth all the while. I'm tired. If ever there were a time for comfort food, it's now.

This beef stew is just a simplified Beef Bourguignon, that delicious but labor-intensive classic French dish. Start with a hunk of beef chuck (I know it's kind of horrifying how fatty it is, but it's so tender. And you can strain off the fat later), add some vegetables and wine and stick it in the oven for a couple hours, and you'll have the perfect dinner to warm body and soul.

Beef stew

1 beef chuck roast, about 2-1/2 lbs., cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1- to 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 sprigs rosemary
about 3/4 bottle dry red wine
1 can chicken or beef broth

1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
about 12 cremini or white button mushrooms, quartered
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

chopped flat-leaf parsley
good baguette

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Season the beef cubes generously with salt and pepper. Pour 2 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil in a Dutch oven. Brown the beef over medium-high heat in 2 or 3 batches, about 5 min. per batch (beef will not be cooked through). Remove the beef to a plate; set aside.

Add onions and carrots to the Dutch oven; add a little more oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 8 min. Add the garlic and tomato paste; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 sec.

Add the rosemary and beef (with any juices that may have collected on the plate). Pour in the broth and enough wine to barely cover the beef. Bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot (this is called fond and carries lots of flavor). Cover and place in the oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, saute the large-diced onion and quartered mushrooms in 2 Tbs. olive oil until browned and tender, about 8 min. Stir in 2 Tbs. flour. Remove stew from oven, place on a stovetop burner over medium-low heat and stir in the mushroom mixture. Let simmer 30 min. If you'd like a thicker broth, mix 2 Tbs. softened butter with 2 Tbs. flour and stir into the stew; let simmer uncovered 15 min. more.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with a nice baguette to soak up all the wine-y juices.

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