At the beginning of the year, I told myself I was going to start looking through my cookbooks more, finding and getting inspired by recipes from different chefs I love and admire. Today, with everything being centered around technology, we often forget about books and the joy they can bring. I mean physical, page turning books, not ones on the iPad. I have great memories looking through cookbooks of my moms and she started giving me one each Christmas not long ago to help build up my collection. I have several hand-me-downs of her own, even some from when my parents first got married over 40 years ago that have hand written notes on the inside about the recipe. So for me, these cookbooks are obviously very special.
When looking through my cookbooks, I picked up one of my favorites, Mad Hungry, written by Lucinda Scala Quinn. If you have not checked out her blog, you definitely need to! Lucinda focuses her book around the importance of the family dinner. Growing up, willing that all of us were home, we sat around the dinner table, shared a meal and talked about what happened during our day. It was a great tradition that I will most certainly carry on when I have children of my own.
With the weather dropping to the 20s and below lately, it is safe to say I was looking for a warm and comforting recipe to fill my freezer. What better way to get the family around the table than a nice bowl of stew?
I find that any recipe that I can freeze, I am completely in love. This dish fed us dinner one night and gave us ALL of these to put in the freezer. So great for nights when I don't feel like cooking anything. Taking a little extra time to make a great stew such as this one saves you time and money in the long run!
Hearty Beef Stew
7 carrots, 2 diced, 5 chopped in 1 inch chunks
4 celery stalks, 2 diced, 2 chopped in 1 inch chunks
6 medium potatoes, chunked
3 small yellow onions, chopped in 1 inch chunks
5 garlic cloves, minced
5-6 lbs stew meat, cut in 1.5 inch chunks (you can get your butcher to do this for you)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 large sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup red wine
8 cups water
8 beef bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1. Chop/prep all your vegetables. Place the potatoes, carrots and celery into water until needed. Put the onions in a small prep bowl and the garlic in another (if you don't want to dirty dishes you may leave them on the counter, I just prefer prep bowls). Set aside the diced carrots and celery in their own prep bowl.
2. Thoroughly season the beef with salt and pepper. Begin to toss the beef, in small batches, in the flour. Drop the floured beef into the oiled pot. Brown on all sides about 8-1o minutes. Repeat steps until all beef is browned.
3. Melt the butter in the pot. Add the onions, cook until somewhat translucent. Add the diced carrots and celery, cook on medium-low until somewhat caramelized, about 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic, cook another 2-3 minutes. Next add the thyme and follow up with the tomato paste. Mix well.
4. Turn the heat up to medium-high heat and pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up all the bits of flavor off the bottom of the pot. Return the meat back to the pot. Next add the broth, or prepared bouillon cubes. Be sure that the mixture covers the meat, add water if it does not. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer, covered for 2 hours.
5. Drain the reserved vegetables and add them to the pot. Cook until the vegetables until your desired tenderness, about 35-45 minutes. Remove several potato chunks, smash them, and return to the pot for a slight thickness. Add the hot sauce and serve!
I served this stew, as I said earlier, with a delicious toasted cheese. If that doesn't sound right to you, a nice chunk of french bread would be perfect along side the dish, anything to sop up that delicious broth I highly recommend. Now, go cozy up on the couch with this comforting dish!
Until next time, happy cooking!