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Saturday, September 29, 2012

root beef stew

Root Beef Stew
. Delicious in cool weather, warming and healthy, and uses ingredients which are easy to come by during the winter months.

Begin by marinating beef 4-12 hours. Combine, and refrigerate

2 lbs stew beef, or chopped roast
2 c red wine
1/8 c Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
1 Tb black pepper

About 2 1/2 hours before you plan to eat (or store) your stew, start doing these steps. 

Dice evenly
2 medium potatoes, peeled or scrubbed
3 carrots
2 parsnips
1 small turnip
1 or 2 cups of mushrooms, if you prefer, or leave button mushrooms whole 

and slice 2 medium vine tomatoes into wedges. You can leave out the tomatoes or add whole peeled tomatoes from a can if the season is not offering you good quality fresh fruit.

Set all these aside in a bowl.

Dice 1 large onion, and crush 3-6 cloves of garlic.

Get out a large soup pot and put it on high heat. Add olive oil once the pan it hot and immediately add the garlic and onion. Once partially clarified, use a slotted spoon to drain beef chunks of their marinade and toss them in as well. Sear beef. Don't bother cooking all the way through, but the pan and oil should be just barely less than smoking hot so that the outside of the meat sears quickly and the flavor is trapped inside. It will be a noisy process. It's short, though, so just go for it.

Once the beef is seared, turn heat immediately down to low.
Add all the chopped veg and stir together.
Add the red wine marinade left over from marinating the beef.
Add beef or vegetable stock, alone or combined with water, enough to barely cover the solid ingredients.
Add 1 bay leaf, about 4 inches of rosemary and 3-4 large leaves of sage. Use the whole sprig of rosemary, don't bother taking off the leaves, as you will remove this before serving.
Add salt. Don't bother with more pepper just yet as you had one full tablespoon of the fresh ground good stuff in the marinade you added, remember? Wait and taste later.

Cover your pot. My stovetop and pot work well on the largest burner on gas mark 3. You may have to play a little. The goal is to keep the stew barely bubbling, not quite simmering but close. You are going to leave the stew cooking like this, covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The veg will be long cooked by that time, as will the beef, but the whole mess will be lovely and fragrant, beautifully seasoned, and tender by the time you are done. Check it occasionally to ensure there is still enough liquid. Add water as needed.

Once cooked to perfection, there is still one final step to finishing this stew nicely.
Combine in a small bowl 1/4 c cold water and 4 heaped Tb cornstarch thickener.
Pour into stew. Stir in well.
Bring stew up to a simmer, still stirring, until you feel the juices suddenly thicken with the cornstarch.

Allow your stew to sit off the heat for 10 minutes or so before serving. I don't know exactly why, but this seems to make a difference with the flavor. Perhaps it allows the cornstarch to settle in? If you know, please share in the comments! Oh, and remove the sage, rosemary and bay. No need for them anymore. They've done their job.

Root Beef Stew is wonderful served with a crusty loaf of bread and butter, a tossed salad, and baked apples. Dig in!

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