Wednesday, June 12, 2013

DinnerLove: Farmer Approved Beef Stew

When my husband Jeff and I were engaged, I thought I would surprise him one cool fall day with a rich Irish beef stew for dinner. I crafted this dish with care, chopping my potatoes, carrots and onions neatly and holding back the green peas until the last minute so they would retain their beautiful green color.
I made bread bowls to serve the stew in and set a rustic autumnal tablescape. When he arrived home from work, he surveyed the table with interest, smiling and making sweet comments. Then he looked closer.
"Is that stew?"  He asked, turning to look at me.
"Yes!" I grinned, waiting with anticipation for the approval and admiration.
"I hate stew". He replied, kissing me on my forehead.

The smile vanished instantly from my face.

"Gosh," I said, "I'm not sure I can marry you."

Of course, I was just joking. But that kind of irreconcilable difference worried me. Stew is a fundamental building block of my culinary arsenal. Fortunately, Jeff's beef stew prejudice stemmed from traumatic childhood incidents involving some improperly prepared versions of the dish. He was willing to try to be objective.

Twelve years later, I still haven't been able to win him over to the Dark Side. He continues to shun beef stew, although the rest of the family loves it. What he doesn't understand is that although different names are applied, he eats stew all the time. Chicken pot pie, beef bourguignon, beef stroganoff, carnitas, ratatouille, cassoulet, and even a family favorite- chili, are all stews. The contrasts are cultural and methodical, and of course they all feature different ingredients. But one-pot cooking can be traced back to ancient times and simply refers to food being cooked in a pot with water (or any kind of liquid) and served in it's own sauce. I happen to love Irish Stew, which incorporates common ingredients found on the Emerald Isle. Traditionally, Irish Stew uses lamb or mutton, carrots, onions, green peas and of course, the ubiquitous potato. In my geographical location, lamb is rarely available, tends to be expensive, and frankly, I wouldn't unleash mutton on my worst enemy. So I tend to fall back on the American favorite, beef.

I cut my own stew meat. Buying pre-cut stew meat may be a time-saver for extremely busy people, but unless you are a captain of Wall Street industry, or are preparing to pilot the space shuttle, it is more efficient and cheaper to buy a large cut of meat and cube it down to your desired size. This kind of simple butchery usually takes me about 6 minutes and saves money.

Winter'rest Farmer Approved Beef Stew

1 London broil, cut into 1" cubes
2 medium onions, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 quarts home-made or high quality meat stock-I used chicken
2-3 carrots sliced
2 cups corn
2-3 handfuls green beans, peas, lima beans- whatever you have
4-5 potatoes cubed
 1 can or bottle of your favorite beer

Heat a thin layer of evoo in the bottom of a large pot.
Dust the meat with all-purpose flour. Layer in the meat so that each piece of meat is separate from it's neighbor. Don't crowd the pot. Brown
the meat on low-medium until they are brown and release on their own from the bottom of the pot. Remove and do another batch. Remove. Add the onions and celery and brown. Deglaze with the beer or the stock. Fill the pot with all ingredients, cover and cook on low for 4-8 hours.

I love to serve this kind of stew with my home-made bread...any kind will do! This is wholesome, hearty fare. Your family should love it and you should have plenty of leftovers to fall back on later in the week when you may not have time to prepare a meal from scratch.

"Líon isteach do bholg agus do spiorad le úr, bia ar fad!"

"Fill your stomach and your spirit with fresh, whole food!" Translated from the Irish language.

Slainte and Cheers!

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