Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cozy Dinner

beef stew
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

People do not move to Baltimore because of our lovely winter months. January and February tend towards the gray, cold, windy end of the weather spectrum. Bleak. Not exactly the time to dine al fresco.

But it is the time for stew. The kind that simmers all day on the stove. That has an aroma that lends itself to wafting through the air. That is thick enough to eat with a fork. And that comes with Pillsbury biscuits and blackberry jelly. With seeds.

That kind.

So that's what we had for dinner last night. Stew made of some beef cubes bought over the weekend, half a bottle of red wine, and the entire contents of my vegetable drawer. Not to mention my whole spice rack.

And it was good. It had too much oregano in it, and definitely too much thyme, but these are little things. What's important is that it was hearty, and meaty, and we didn't go to bed cold or hungry.

Even though we have the heat turned down to 61 (gas prices are killing me).

So here it is, as best as I can remember:

(serves 6-ish)

2 1/2-3 lbs. beef cubes (for stewing - I used 2 packs)
1 cup and 2 tbls. flour (divided)
2 medium yellow onions, quartered and separated
3 cloves garlic, minced finally or pressed
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 cups good beef stock
1 1/2 cups good red wine
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. thyme (note: this is WAY less than I used)
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

You'll want to cook this several hours before you plan to eat, if not the day before. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will soak in together.

You'll need a big, heavy stock pot in which to cook the soup, and a frying pan. Get them both hot, over medium heat, and cover the bottom of each with olive oil.

Place the garlic and onions in the stock pot and saute until the onions are soft and transparent.

At the same time, using about 1 cup of the flour, cover each of the beef cubes in flour and place in frying pan. Brown the beef on all sides, then transfer to the stock pot, with the onions. You might have to do this in several batches.

Deglaze the pan you cooked the meat in with 1/2 a cup of red wine, scraping up the brown bits. Let the wine cook for about a minute, then add the mixture to the stock pot.

Add the potatoes, zucchini and carrots to the stock pot, mixing everything together. Pour the remaining 1 cup of wine and the beef stock over the ingredients, and add the salt, pepper, oregano, bay leaves, thyme and cayenne pepper. Again, mix it all up.

If the liquid doesn't reach the top of the ingredients, you might want to add just a little bit more beef stock.

Bring the whole mixture to a slight boil over medium-high heat. Once the soup just reaches boiling, turn it down and cover. Let simmer for several hours, checking periodically.

After about 2-3 hours, check the taste and adjust salt, pepper and spices if necessary.

Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of the broth into a mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 tbls. of flour to thicken. Once the the flour is completely mixed into the broth, add the mixture to the big pot of soup, stirring it in well. If you'd like your stew thicker, repeat this process.

And enjoy! Oh, and I really do highly recommend Pillsbury biscuits. I know I could make my own...but why, when I can just buy this delicious, flaky, adorable brand?

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