WHEN A SNOWSTORM IS RAGING, and temperatures have plunged into the single digits, my advice is to make a French beef stew. As it simmers quietly, the stew will fill your kitchen (and probably your entire house, too) with the comforting aromas of thyme, red wine, garlic, and caramelized meat. My recipe for this melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness:
Note#1: Normally I use a cast iron skillet for browning meats and vegetables. But yesterday, for the sake of experiment, I used my non-stick electric skillet, heated to 350°F. The appliance worked like a charm.
Note #2: For this slow-simmering stew, the cheapest beef is the best beef. I used choice, boneless chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes.
Note #3: The temperature outside my window is currently minus 6°F. Don’t pretend you’re not jealous.
Then run outside to your potting shed, shivering all the while because you neglected to wear a coat, and grab some of the hard-neck garlic you grew last summer.
Now deglaze the skillet: Add some red wine, and, using a spatula or a wooden spoon, stir it about while it boils, to scrape up any stuck-on (and highly flavored) bits of meat and vegetable. Tip the wine into the pot.
Cover the works with an entire bottle of red wine. It doesn’t have to be an expensive wine. But it should be something you would gladly drink. For the stew pictured here, I used a moderately-priced ($13.99) French Bordeaux.
Bring the stew to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and let the ingredients simmer quietly — not boil — for 2 hours.
Empty the contents of the sieve onto your serving platter, and return the liquid to your cooking pot.
Shall we make a voluptuous sauce for this stew? I mean, a sauce that’s so delicious you’ll be tempted to drink it as is?
Bring the liquid to a boil.
Tip: Want a thicker sauce? Add more cornstarch blended with cold water.
Then dive into this fragrant, soul-warming, rapturously delicious beef stew, which, quite honestly, was no trouble to make. I served my own portion on a bed of hot, cooked rice. You might prefer to lay the sexy works on a bed of boiled potatoes. Or pasta. Or a thick, toasted slice of Pain de Mie.
Need a printer-friendly, copy-and-paste version of the above recipe? Here goes:
Thyme & Wine Beef Stew
Kevin Lee Jacobs
Ingredients for 6-8 generous servings
1 1/2 to 2 lbs boneless chuck stewing beef
5 fat carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
8 fat cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1 bunch flat-leaved parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon (or slightly more) kosher salt, and grinds of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bottle (750 ML) good red wine, such as a French Bordeaux
1 generous tablespoon cornstarch, blended with 1/4 cup wine or water (for thickening the sauce)
Special Equipment – a large cast-iron skillet, or an electric skillet heated to 350°F.; a large, heavy-based pot with a lid; a wire mesh sieve
1. Dry the meat by blotting it with paper towels (wet beef won’t brown properly). Set the skillet over a medium flame, and add a glug of olive oil. Working in batches if your skillet is not particularly large, brown the beef on all sides until a deep walnut color is achieved. Then transfer the meat to the large pot.
2. Pour a little more olive oil into the skillet, add the carrots and onion, tossing them about until they begin to brown — about 8 minutes. Then add the garlic, and stir it about for 60 seconds. Add the vegetables to the pot. Then pour some wine into the skillet, let it come to a boil, and scrape up the stuck-on (and highly-flavored) bits and pieces of meat and vegetables. Pour this deglazing liquid into the pot.
3. Add the parsley, and the salt, pepper, and thyme to meat and vegetables. Then add the entire bottle of red wine to completely cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and then reduce the heat. Let the stew simmer quietly for 2 hours.
4. Set the sieve over a large bowl; ladle the stew into the sieve. Pour the contents of the sieve onto a serving platter, and return the liquid to the cooking pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then whisk in the cold cornstarch mixture. Stir for about one minute while the sauce thickens. Ladle the sauce over the beef.
5. Serve on a bed of pasta, rice, or boiled potatoes.
Folks, Thyme and Wine Beef Stew is home-cooking at its best. I hope you’ll try it someday. If you wish, you can cook the stew on Saturday, refrigerate it overnight, and then reheat and serve it on Sunday. Yes — it’s a stew that will wait for you.
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