Stew On This
Believe it or not, I've never made a traditional stew before. Nor have I ever eaten one I really enjoyed ... until now.
Growing up I had all these preconceived notions that stew meant rubbery beef, gristle and mushy vegetables. Stews and pot roasts seemed old fashioned but man oh man have I been wrong. Last night I made Ree Drummond's Beef Stew with Root Vegetables and it was a total winner. The beef was buttery. The sauce coated the tongue like a warm hug. It was perfect for a cozy evening and I can't forget to mention that it makes the entire house smell absolutely amazing. If you're curious how the cooking went? Or want to know what liberties I took with the recipe? Then you simply must read on.
First step is to brown the meat which for some reason is so difficult for me to get right. The biggest mistake I make is I never let my pan heat up for long enough. I swear I have a lot of patience so go figure. Anywho, more times than not the meat ends up sitting in oil and turning grey. This time around I was determined to wait in order to develop the most gorgeous crust on the cubed beef. I'm proud to say mission accomplished.
Once the meat is browned, this recipe is all about chop, chop in the pot. It's really a no brainer. Remember to cut your veggies about the same size so they cook evenly and try cutting on a pretty diagonal. It just makes a homey dish that much more special.
According to my extensive watching of cooking shows, it's very professional to finish a dish with acid. For my stew I stirred in a 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar. And wowza, the vinegar truly brightened the stew and cut through all that savoury.
Toward the end of cooking is slurry time. Now. If I can teach you anything at all, in this over-populated food blog world, it would be that slurries are your friend. I can't tell you how many soups, sauces and gravies my Mom and I have saved by mixing a little flour with water. We joke with each other all the time, "when in doubt make a slurry!" Ree's recipe calls for 4+ cups of beef broth so to get that thick gravy-like sauce don't skimp on the slurry.
Now let's dive into some of the changes and substitutions that HUNGRY FOR LIFE is notoriously known for:
Season the Beef
Kind of strange that the recipe doesn't instruct you to season the meat with salt and pepper before browning. I say, season the heck out of it. The whole idea behind a stew is to develop deep, rich layers of flavour and it all starts with some S&P.
Wine Instead of Beer
The only beers we had were some fruity, bitter IPAs. I just couldn't wrap my head around how that flavour profile would transform over the course of 3 hours. So I opted for some classic red wine instead, 1 cup to be exact. But next time, I'm going give the beer a shot just to know, ya know? Maybe Guinness?
More Veg the Better
In addition to the carrots and parsnips I added baby potatoes (unpeeled), mushrooms and frozen peas to my stew. The more the merrier in my book. Different vegetables add texture and dimension to an otherwise one-note dish. Leeks, celery, green beans even sweet potatoes would also be nice.
I happened to find some rosemary and thyme in my fridge and tossed several stems of each into my bubbling pot. Herbs just round everything out and play so well with the hearty beef. For a dash of freshness, add some chopped parsley in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Finish With Vinegar
According to my extensive watching of cooking shows, it's very professional to finish a dish with acid. For my stew I stirred in a 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar. And wowza, the vinegar truly brightened the stew and cut through all that savoury. Live out your own chef fantasy and try it!
All in all, my aversion to stews have all but disappeared and I've added low and slow cooking to my repertoire. I encourage you to try foods you previously disliked to discover how your tastes may have changed over the years. You might be pleasantly surprised and I'll be here waiting to hear all about it.