Thursday, April 21, 2005

Stewing in my juices

I dislike stew enormously. It reminds me of a dish eaten by dweeby people with horn-rimmed glasses held together by scotch tape. It also reminds me of obese people, for some reason.

Nonetheless, here's a recipe I've developed out here on the range. Instead of the usual bison, peacock, or moose meat I've used something called "beef." Instead of peyote or other fine, yet rare, herbs, I've made adjustments to allow for more pedestrian faire.

This recipe will feed about 8

2 lbs stew meat (or, as I did this evening, a nice London Broil works well. It was on sale, though)
Olive oil
4 cups beef stock (the organice stuff you buy for $3.49. If you love your family, you will use this low-sodium, all-natural stuff rather than bullion cubes something un-natural)
4 cups water
3 teaspoons fresh rosemary
3 teaspoons fresh thyme
3 teaspoons fresh parsley
3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Do you notice a theme here? Fresh is ALWAYS better.
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 carrots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, cut into large chunks (I like onion hunks. Cut to suit, however)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Ok, here we go. Over medium heat, brown the beef cubes in enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. I used about 3.5 tablespoons, but it'll depend on the size of your pan. Throw a little salt and pepper in as you cook. Once the meat is browned, add the beef broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer.

Cut up your vegetables and run the parsley, thyme, and rosemary through the food processor. I've tried adding the ingredients without blending them, but I have found it to be better and more aromatic to give the herbs a few quick pulses in the food processor. Now add the spices, the bay leaves, and the vegetables to the simmering beef broth. Mix together and allow to "stew" or for about an hour.

After about an hour, mix together the cornstarch and water in a small dish and then add to the stew. This serves to thicken the mixture. You can now leave this to stew all day long, should you fancy. Just keep it on low heat (this can be done in a crockpot, of course) and if you want a really thick stew, take the lid off while cooking so as to allow the water to evaporate off.

So, there you have it. I let it cook for about 5 hours and it was really quite tender and tasted very good. I still don't like stew, but this isn't too bad. Besides, it's a great way to clean out the fridge.

As for dessert, I was in a crunch today so I pureed a pint of strawberries with about 1/3 cup of sugar. After the puree, I ran it through a sieve and then chilled it for two hours. Then I baked a Devil's Food Cake and used a nice vanilla icing on it. I drizzled enough puree to form a pool in the center of the plate and then placed a generous portion of the cake just to the side of pool. I then added a sprig of mint to the cake and sprinkled both cake and sauce with a bit of confectioner's sugar.

I suspect that this Sunday I'll try for a lava cake with fresh spiced whipped cream and a rasberry sauce. I'm also going for a new type of chocolate bread pudding made of croissants rather than French bread...should be good!

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