As the Weather Turns…Beef Stew For 2 (or4)

 

A dip in the thermometer forced my cart to the beef aisle. In goes about a pound of cubed beef chuck. I'd like to say it was dinner for a family, but a teen boy and a hungry mom can (did) left only one serving as leftovers. No matter, it's EZ to double down.

1/3 cup flour with several heavy pinches of kosher salt and grinds of pepper.

1 lb beef cubed, toss in flour mix

Olive or veg oil for searing

Large onion, sliced or chopped

Clove or two of garlic, chopped

Shallot if available, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1 cup broth, chicken or beef, or water

A couple carrots, sliced 1/4 inch

Large russet potato or two, cubed and steamed (I used a leftover. Can also be cooked fully in stew or skipped entirely)

Heat oil in large, heavy bottom pot, medium flame. Sear beef, turning when it looks dark on each side. Takes about 8-10 minutes. Remove. Lower heat, add a drop of oil, cook onions 3-5 minutes until soft. Add a little broth if leftover flour in pan turns dark brown. Add tomato paste. Cook a minute. Add wine, bring to low boil to scrape up all the goodness on bottom of pan. Add beef back to pot. Cook almost 2 hours on very low flame or in oven at about 300-325. Very small bubbles.

Do laundry, walk dogs, write a financial report.

Add carrot slices & raw potato cubes if using. Cook another 45. Already cooked potatoes can be added for last 20.

Cooking time = about 2 1/2. Meat should be super tender.

Eat – B

Note: if doubling, sear beef in batches.

A bonus pic of the dogs who waited patiently…Note 2: don't use “lean” stew beef. It will disappoint.

 

 

New Year’s Day Ribs…or Any Day!

Sticking with a theme that packaged food is better than mom's food, my son asked that the ribs I was making to welcome 2014 be smothered with bottled sauce. And I almost did it! But with my hand poised on 2 (!) overpriced condiments, I figured out a last minute compromise.

A good friend gave me Ina Garten's “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof”. The barbecue sauce recipe (click here for recipe) uses a combination of pantry staples and fave bottled condiments. It is now a family favorite. As suggested by Ina, I used St. Louis ribs – I think they're meatier anyway. I also had no desire to start a midwinter grill, so I cooked them covered, and smothered in sauce, at 350 for 1 3/4 hours. Then mopped and broiled for a nice crunch.

Eat – B

(The recipe makes plenty of sauce for dipping and making BBQ chicken at a later date!)

 

Chili…Inside & Out

For my baby boy – not the dogs who I call baby boy, but the real one. He loves chili and so do I. Plus it's just spicy stew so it takes little effort from me. This one is based on a recipe from the mom of my oldest friend. She's from Brazil although I don't think that's why she adds a bottle of beer. I think she just likes beer.

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef or small cubes of beef

1 can or jar of beans, your choice, rinsed. I used cannelini.

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Bottle of lager

2 tablespoons red chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/2 tablespoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Bay leaf

Salt & pepper

Veg or olive oil

Drizzle oil in tall sided pot (stock or otherwise) over medium heat. Brown beef (5-10 minutes). Remove beef. Soften onion & garlic with several pinches of salt. Add tomato paste, cook a minute or two. Add beef, beans, beer & spices. Bring to a boil – simmer at least 45 minutes to an hour. Longer is better.

Good with rice, tortillas, sour cream & avocado. Really good on pasta my Cincinnati friends 🙂 minus the cinnamon.

Eat – B

Takeout…In

 

I don't know what I would do without Nancie McDermott. She is such a fabulous resource for me and mine in the kitchen, obsessed as we are with Asian flavors, but without the budget (mine) or desire (mine again) for taking away often overly oiled and sauced food from the local Chinese places.

Quick and Easy Chinese does the trick, every time. Chinese food is all in the prep. Cooking time is usually quick so it is the perfect weeknight offering.

Her pepper steak killed many birds with one skillet this week, except for the desire for leftovers. It's so good, you may want to double down on the recipe.

**separately, when you're feeling it, consider making her green onion pancakes. You will never look at scallions and flour the same way and your family will think you're a genius.

Click here for the recipe!

 

 

Let’s Get Stewed

Someone's britches got a little too big for her Le Creuset this week. Absorbed in the Top Chef finale and the premise that someone eliminated (!) earlier, could come back and claim the title, I missed all the classic signs of a braise running out of liquid. Rather I was congratulating myself that the next night's dinner was already in the oven before the current night's dishes were done dish washing. Idiot! To shorten the story and end the irony, I pulled said stew from the oven, added beef stock and rescued the son of a gun. Kicked myself in my over-confident pants while I was at it.

Two lessons learned – one, I should have run my oven no higher than 325 to simmer. Two, if making a small scale stew (2 lbs of meat) it is possible to cook thoroughly and almost reduce the liquid to nothing in two hours. For the life of me I have no idea why I didn't make 3 pounds of meat to double down and get two meals for the effort of one!

This week's beef stew, patterned after my mom's, was supposed to be the piece de resistance of hosting my son's friend for the week.

Start with beef chuck. If you buy lean stew meat the deck's already stacked against you. And stew is supposed to be the lazy man's (gal's) great dinner. Plus this is not a fish, it's red meat, anti-vegetarian, vegan-offensive. If you're going to have meat, enjoy it, once in a while, as guilt free as possible. I'm Jewish and from the birthplace of the lean brisket, I feel your pain. Get over it.

Ingredients

2 lbs. beef chuck, cubed about an inch/inch and a half

2 large or 3 medium onions, half chopped, half sliced

2 chopped carrots, 2 sliced carrots

or half a bag whittled carrots, chopped and half a bag left whole

2-3 cloves of garlic if desired, chopped

4-5 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed about an inch, inch and half

1 tablespoon veg oil (maybe more)

2 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cups wine

1- 2 cups beef stock (or water)

1 bay leaf

Salt

Pepper

Preheat oven to 325. Heat Dutch oven or heavy pot on medium heat. You will need a lid. Add oil, heat! Season beef with salt & pepper. Sear in 2-3 batches to get deep color on as many sides as you can. Color = flavor!

Lower heat when meat comes out. Add oil if necessary, adding chopped onions carrots. Soften, than add garlic if desired. Salt/pepper. Add tomato paste, stir and cook a minute. Add wine, bring to modest boil and scrape up the bits in the pan. Return meat and all the juices and enough stock to cover. Add bay leaf. Pop in oven for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours, check for liquid. Add potatoes and big carrots for last 45 minutes of cooking.

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Alternatively, cook all but the potatoes and extra carrots the day before serving. Reheat and add potatoes and carrots day of. May require extra stock.

Alternatively again, skip the potatoes – make polenta or mashed potatoes.

Last alternative, shred the meat, toss with pasta like cavatelli. Parmesan. OMG, it's good!

Btw – stew is about benchmarks, like soup. No one cares what size the beef cubes are, or the size of the veggies, or what type of onion. It helps for even cooking if veggies are uniform. Same goes for proteins.

Good with fork or spoon – B

 

Bold Flavors, Soft Tacos

It always pays to have a plan. My goal? Make sure the kids eat vegetables intentionally or not, and bribe my son's friend who is staying with us through food. So I set my plan in motion weeks ago asking for a list of his faves. I got back a string of ingredients and a nod toward junk food. Ingredient suggestions in hand I planned the menu for the week. I don't always make a menu, but when I do, food production feels less like a chore. (Admittedly grocery shopping Sunday night wasn't all that…except for the company 🙂

Tonight – crowd pleasing soft tacos! I can't tell you exactly what was said, enough to say there were no leftovers.

Mea culpa. I bought a taco seasoning pouch. Confession. I was too paranoid to use it. Two ingredients I didn't recognize and we were already fighting a potential allergy in the house.

As an alternative, I offer this super simple any night of the week supper.

Ingredients

1 1/4 lbs lean ground beef, or turkey

1/2 large onion chopped

1 teaspoon Veg oil

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

Sprinkle cayenne

1 tablespoon cornmeal

10 oz. can tomatoes with chiles, mild

Salt

Pepper

Soften chopped onion in oil in large skillet. Salt & pepper. Add ground beef, cooking the pink out of it and breaking up chunks. Season with chili powder, cumin, cayenne. Stir 1-2 minutes. Add cornmeal and mix. Add tomatoes & chiles. Cook 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The fixins: shredded cheese, salsa, lettuce, pickled jalapeños, whole whet tortillas (cover stack with damp paper towel and zap 30-45 seconds in microwave)

Make it your own with your best toppings – guacamole? Sour cream?

Enjoy – B

 

Fork or Spoon Guisada

Despite my best intentions and a blizzard, I never did break out the Ninja this weekend. This after I forged my way to the market like a dedicated postal worker through rain, sleet, snow and manic Jersey drivers to buy the beef and green pepper needed for Slow Cooker Carne Guisada. But alas on Sunday the beef still needed to carne and I was missing several of the hours needed for countertop cooking. No matter! That's where the Dutch oven comes in. Slow cooker carne guisada in half the time.

I used a favorite Martha Stewart recipe, browning meat and softening veggies stovetop, before combininglot and setting it in a 350 oven for almost 3 hours.

Here's the pic and the question, fork or spoon?

 

Dig in – B

Note : as written in the recipe, great in tortillas!