Friday, January 29, 2010

Best Beef Stew

A recent post on “My Kitchen Café” was a sample menu planner in calendar format. In the past I have tried similar menu planning techniques, but usually I just jot the plans down on scratch paper. This time, I completed my menu plans on the template provided by “My Kitchen Café”; then I printed it off on the computer. There is something about a typed menu plan that just seems so much more official. So far, I have stuck with my plans (3 days in a row)! Considering how much I change my mind, that is actually quite good for me. Several of the menus I have planned are aimed at using up some of the beef I have in the freezer. This is one such recipe.

It has been a while since we have had beef stew—and this recipe is a keeper! Some of the ingredients may seem a little odd for stew, but believe me—the stew is amazingly “beefy” with a rich, velvety broth. Before Christmas, I wouldn’t have been able to make this recipe due to lack of proper equipment. But now, thanks to the indoor cast-iron Dutch oven Mom and Dad gave us, I was able to make this. I completed the recipe through step 5 in the morning to help make supper meal preparation a breeze.

2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
4 anchovy fillets , finely minced (about 2 teaspoons) (trust me—these are great in this)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 ounces salt pork, rinsed of excess salt
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (about 1 packet)
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen peas , thawed
Table salt and ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine garlic and anchovies in small bowl; press with back of fork to form paste. Stir in tomato paste and set mixture aside.
2. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Do not season. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add half of beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke or fond begins to burn. Transfer beef to large plate. Repeat with remaining beef and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, leaving second batch of meat in pot after browning.
3. Reduce heat to medium and return first batch of beef to pot. Add onion and carrots to Dutch oven and stir to combine with beef. Cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.
4. Slowly add beef broth, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase heat to high and allow broth to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, and salt pork. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 1-1/2 hours.
5. Remove pot from oven; remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
6. Using large spoon, skim any excess fat from surface of stew. Stir in pearl onions; cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are cooked through and meat offers little resistance when poked with fork (meat should not be falling apart), about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and allow to soften for 5 minutes.
7. Increase heat to high, stir in softened gelatin mixture and peas; simmer until gelatin is fully dissolved and stew is thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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