Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cold Comfort: Root Veggie Stew with Beef

This weekend, we both were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Sure, there were leaves to rake... and a house to clean... but after all was said and done, we finally found ourselves back in the kitchen. And craving a bit of good old fashioned comfort food.

I have fond memories of coming home from elementary school and being greeted by a warm bowl of succulent stew -- tender beef and chunks of potato and carrots surrounded by a delicious brown sauce flavored with onion and bay leaves.  Mom always ate her stew like soup -- in a bowl, with a spoon. Dad always piled his stew on top of the bread like a big, open-faced sandwich -- slicing through each bite and eating it with a fork.  And me?  Well, I remember eating all the vegetables first so that I could savor the few pieces of stew meat in the bottom of the bowl, and use my bread to sop up the delicious sauce.

Some things never change.
The weather has been sunny, but chilly, here in Wisconsin.  When we ventured out to the farmer's market on Saturday morning we were surprised by the bone-chilling wind that greeted us when we got out of the car.  Wow!  Those farmers are sure dedicated folks!  And we were glad.  Our stash included loads of great stuff -- fresh mustard greens, red kale, end-of-season broccoli, winter squash, Ida Red apples, and rutabaga.  The big question became "What would we make with our loot?"  Well -- stew, of course!

The stew I make these days still resembles the one I grew up with... but I've taken a few liberties with the ingredients. Taking my cue from all the great chefs who remind us that a fantastic dish is contingent upon fantastic ingredients, we start off with a pound of our favorite grass-fed beef. This beef not only tastes better than your average supermarket meat, but it's seriously nourishing.  Among its benefits, grass-fed beef is a great source of vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids (7 times more than grain fed beef), vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Grass-based farming is also great for the environment (excellent article here at Mother Earth News, if you're interested).  Healthy as it is, we're still judicious with our use of red meat. We use the beef primarily as a flavoring for the stew (rather than as the main event), so we can get away with using only about one pound of meat for 6-8 solid servings.

Another update to our beef stew involves... and you've probably guessed it... BEER!  Yes, indeed.  One of our favorite "stew brews" just happens to be one that's made right here in the Dairy State.  Tyranena "The Devil Made Me Do It" Coffee Imperial Oatmeal Porter.  Dark and sweet with plenty of coffee flavor, this beer really bumps up the flavor quotient in our stew.  And it's mighty nice for drinking on the side too...

And then there are the veggies -- a couple of nice rutabaga, a few delicious carrots, and a handful of Yukon gold potatoes.

We chop the veggies into nice, rustic chunks.  This stew cooks for quite a while in the oven, so we don't want everything turning to mush (anyone have BAD memories of overcooked carrots in their mom's beef stew??... yeah, that's exactly what we want to avoid).

Toss the cubed beef with a quarter cup of flour seasoned with salt & pepper.

And now, the cooking begins.
Brown the stew meat in large, oven-safe pan (a Dutch oven, if you have one).

When everything is nicely browned, remove the meat and saute a couple of sliced onions in the same pan.  When the onions are just about tender, add 8 cloves of chopped garlic and saute briefly.

You'll notice all sorts of delicious browned bits developing as the onions cook.  Feel free to giggle with delight -- all those crusty bits are going to impart some seriously amazing flavor to our stew.

Add a tablespoon of dried thyme to the onions, and stir well. Deglaze the pan with 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a cup or so of the beer. Scrape up those crispy bits as the mixture comes to a boil. They should come off the bottom of the pan surprisingly easily as the vinegar and beer do their thang.

Add the remaining cup of beer, along with 3 cups of good quality beef broth, 2 tablespoons of Dijon style mustard, 2 bay leaves, and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Bring the liquid to a boil.  Then add your reserved beef, chopped vegetables and three sprigs of fresh rosemary (if you've got 'em).  When everything is boiling again, you can cover your pot and transfer the stew to a preheated 350ยบ oven.

Check your stew after about an hour and a half.  If the vegetables are tender, you're good to go. If things need a bit more time, you can let it go for another half hour or so.

If the stew seems too thin for your liking, you can remove some of the vegetables and use your choice of methods to thicken the sauce (I like pureeing a few of the vegetables, or adding a roux and simmering it for a bit).  Otherwise, just spoon into bowls and serve.

Now, seriously... where's my chunk of crusty bread?  It's time for dinner!

Recipe:  Root Veggie Stew with Beef

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  1. Stew is one of my favorite comfort foods. I usually use red wine for deglazing but I love your use of beer and red wine vinegar. This sounds like such a great complexity of flavors. Dijon mustard? Yes please!

  2. The coffee beer sounds like it would give some great flavor to the dish. Delicious!

  3. YUM. Love Stew. Never had it with beer. Although I do add wine. Lets look at this for a minute. I live surrounded by wine county--Napa, Amador, El Dorado, etc, and am a wino. You live in WI, the land of Beer and Brats. You cook your stew with beer and I cook mine with wine...coicidence? I think not!

    Is that your house? I LOVE IT! So much personality.

  4. Amanda - Yeah, that's our house. Cute little Milwaukee bungalow... we bought it because we loved the turret!

  5. A good beef stew is on our menu for the week too. We also love putting beer in it

  6. You said exactly what turned me off anything stewed for years - the overcooked carrots! Lord how I hated stew as a kid because I hated all of that overcooked vegetable mush. The potatoes were always russets too. I've never liked the taste or the texture of russet potatoes and I remember how they were just starchy globs.

    This would have changed my mind much sooner in life. I would have had decent tasting and decent textured potatoes (if only someone had given me yukon golds as a child) and I wouldn't have had those overcooked carrots. If we go back in a time machine together can you make my younger self some beef stew so I could eat it and enjoy it a few years before marrying a guy who doesn't eat beef? :-D

  7. Rachel - If you provide the time machine, I'll come back with you and make you some stew :) Absolutely!

  8. Yummie, I can have your stew right now...looks absolutely comforting.

  9. The stew looks fantastic, but that beer sounds amazing!

  10. Stew sounds wonderful right now...
    It is just starting to get a little cooler in sunny FL. Great dish.

  11. Okay, your stew looks fantastic of course. That has PERFECT Sunday afternoon written all over it. But what I *really* want to know is whether that's your house! I ADORE. Seriously. Between houses that look like that, affordable and accessible grass fed beef and winter farmer markets? Wisconsin is looking better and better each day!

  12. Aaah, and I should have read your comments first. Now I can complete that sentence with, "I ADORE...your house." Yup, the turret was what swung me too.

  13. oh that looks absolutely delicious!

  14. oh wow this looks wonderful. I love stew, and I don't think I've ever made it! I usually just go home and eat my mom's. :) I don't know anything about you think I could just sub more beef broth for it?

  15. Amazing looking stew!! Would love a bowl of it!

  16. Very cool house! Lots of personality (unlike my CA tract home - ahem!) Somehow my mother always ended up making pot roast instead of stew. Same ingredients but with a chunk 'o beef. Love the mustard and brown sugar in your mix. Sounds yummy!

  17. That stew and the lovely aroma must be great to come home to. I bet the flavor from the beer was fantastic too.

  18. What can be better than a home cooked beef stew on a cold autumn day. This is perfect! Thanks for sharing.

  19. Scrumptious! Congrats on the foodie blogroll!


  20. The stew looks so yummy. I still miss those autumn leaves; 20+ years of living in Florida hasn't changed that. BTW - Congrats Lo, your blog is feature on Finest Foodie Friday and the F.B.Roll widget too!

  21. We're on the widget??!! How exciting :)
    Just went over to Jenn's to thank her for featuring us. That Foodie Blogroll. Such nice people!

  22. re: locally raised grass fed beef; the only reason I don't get steer by the side is that I don't think the two of us could finish it within 9 months. Especially because we get local Berkshire/Kurubota pig by the half, local lamb by the half, and local broiler hens five at a time!

    /oh and *high five* on the widget! It's nice when new people show up!

  23. This is so comfort food. I'll have to make one soon when my husband is back. I'm sure he will enjoy with all the great Fall vegetables.

  24. Looks just like mom used to make! I loved mashing my carrots and potatoes together and eating that with a piece of beef.

  25. perfect comfort food for a chilly fall night!


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