With winter fog plus the added gloominess of a recent oil spill hanging over my lovely city, there’s really no better time for a hearty stew involving an animal of the land! If you know me, you’ll know that me eating beef is a pretty rare event – I generally abide by the principle that I’ll eat beef, or most meats, only when my body really craves it. Me cooking red meat at home is an even rarer occurrence. So, listen up! This is probably one of the only beef recipes you’ll get out of me!
After convincing Nathan that I do indeed want to make a beef stew (not chicken, not lamb), off I went to Drewes’ butcher shop a few blocks away to buy me some happy, sustainably-raised moo-cow. When I asked the guy working at the counter about the difference between the stew meat ($6.49/lb) and a whole chuck roast ($6.99), he said something about how they’re exactly the same thing but one’s cut up and the ‘gland taken out’ for my convenience. Now I don’t know much about cuts of meat so call me ignorant, but what’s a gland doing in a shoulder cut?
In any case, even though his whole explanation didn’t make much sense to me, I still went with the pre-cut stew meat, figuring that it shouldn’t really matter for a stew. Looking back and after doing some research online, however, I think I should have bought the whole roast – the logic is that when you buy the roast, you know exactly the cut you’re getting and not just scraps from various parts of the animal. You can also cut up chunks which are all about the same size, so everything cooks at the same rate. Oh well.
Originally, I had this grand vision of making a boeuf bourguignon, full of delicious red wine. But then I remembered that one of my main reasons for making a beef stew was to use up a bunch of our CSA carrots; boeuf bourguignon, while delicious-sounding, traditionally involves only onions, mushrooms, beef, wine, and bacon. Darn.
In the end, I made a red wine beef stew with carrots and green beans (can I call it boeuf bourguignon-esque?) and served it with some smashed potatoes and a gremolata mixed with some coarse sea salt. The gremolata idea was taken from reading one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes and I got to give him props – it really brightens up the whole dish. Good job, Mr. Naked Chef!
(Recipe based on this one by Dave Lieberman, and because I can’t follow instructions, “adapted” last minute by me)
Note: I actually used too much stock (3 cups) when I made the dish, resulting in a very liquidy stew even after 2 hours – so I ended up having to whip out the oldest Cantonese cooking trick in the book and thickened the whole thing with some cornstarch (since I was too hungry to wait for it to reduce). Hopefully, that won’t happen to you. But if it does, either let it simmer until it’s reduced to the right consistency or cheat like I did: take a tablespoon of cornstarch, add in a bit of water, and use your fingers to dissolve the whole thing so there are no lumps. Slowly drizzle into the simmering stew after adding green beans and stir. You should see your stew thicken as the cornstarch cooks. Keep adding cornstarch like this one tablespoon at a time to get your stew to the desired consistency.