Monday, October 12, 2009

Italian-style Beef Stew

Today it's Columbus Day, or Native Peoples Day, depending on where your politics are.

Either way, it was still a holiday.

I went to work for a couple hours and then took my kids out to a movie.

Since it was quite chilly, beef stew seemed the way to go for dinner. I bought two 1 1/2 pound packs of beef stew cubes and made beef stew two ways, this one and Japanese beef curry.

I'm teaching my girls how to cook without recipes, so I laid out the meat and asked my girls how many potatoes and carrots they thought they should have in ratio to the meat. I then asked how big they thought the potatoes and carrots should be cut, so they could stand with the big cubes of beef.

For the almost 3 lbs. of meat, they picked three potatoes and three carrots. After we cut up the veggies in medium-sized pieces, they thought there was too much potato, so we didn't use all the potato.

I'm glad they're learning to eyeball ingredients and make judgements along the way.

They learned a few more lessons, including how much aromatics (onions, garlic, etc.) they could use, the choice and ratio of liquids (beef broth, water, wine, tomato puree, etc.), and the variety of herbs and spices they could employ.

The best part of learning how to cook is being rewarded with dinner. Good job, girls!

Italian-style Beef Stew

1 1/2 lb. beef stew meat, dried and salted and peppered
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef broth
3/4 cup cabernet sauvignon
1/2 a large can of whole plum tomatoes (5 of the tomatoes chopped, and 2/3 cup of the tomato juice in the can) or you can use 1 small can of chopped tomatoes.
2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut in medium-sized pieces
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut in medium-sized pieces
1 pack of mushrooms, cleaned and cut in halves or thirds
A few dried mushrooms, soaked in a little hot water
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf

Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add a little oil and brown meat on all sides, making sure that there is air space all around the meat and the pan is not crowded. Cook meat in batches if necessary and set aside.

Turn down heat to medium, add a little more oil, and brown onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic at the last minute of cooking.

Add back meat to the pot and add beef broth, wine and tomatoes. Keep the skillet you used to brown the meat and onions to use for the mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and cook until beef is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (You can also do this in pressure cooker and cook the beef for 35 minutes or cook it in the oven at 350 for 1 1/2 hours).

While the beef is cooking, heat up the skillet over medium-high heat and add a little oil. Cook the mushrooms until they're browned. Salt and pepper and set aside.

When the dried mushrooms that you have been soaking in hot water have softened, cut them in small pieces. With a fine strainer, strain the mushroom water to remove any dirt and then add the chopped mushrooms back. Set aside.

When the beef is tender, add the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and mushroom juice, and cook at a simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender.

Adjust seasonings and serve with noodles or rice.


Sophie said...

MMMMMMMMMM,....what a lovely & oh so tasty beef stew!!

Looks marvellous!!

NikiTheo said...

I heart beef stew! I think this is a must make this weekend!

Chocolate Shavings said...

There's nothing like a perfect tender stew for the cold winter dinners ahead!

The Little Teochew said...

Great pics, and I love that bowl!

Petertammenson said...

Yummy - I just stumbled across your blog and will be a devoted reader! Question: I'd love to start cooking without recipes myself, and I love that you're passing this on to your daughters. I'd like to get my little girl to that point, but I have to get there first. Any recommended reading or advice about that? Thanks tons!

Ninette said...

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by to comment! Peter, welcome and I'm glad you feel my laissez faire cooking style may be helpful to you. I'm not sure if there's anything to read, although Michael Ruhlman's Ratio book is something that may address cooking without recipes. My best advice to you is to cook. If you follow my blog, you'll see that I explain my own philosophy and how I'm teaching my kids building blocks. For beef stew, we made Japanese beef curry and this beef stew at the same time. The process was the same until the very end, where we added different flavor components. They now understand the making of stew and the concept that different flavor components will give different profiles, but it's basically stew. We could have done this same process but finished it with soy sauce, sesame oil, five spice, etc. and made an Asian-style stew, or added sour cream and mustard to make a stroganoff-style stew.

La Table De Nana said...

Stews are all time favorites here..One of mine is very similar to this one..We usually eat stew on a stand alone basis.. My husband dips bread in his sauce:) I love the way the house smells too~

NMOS said...

Looks hearty and delicious.

Anonymous said...

I love beef stew especially with red wine. Very yummy looking and I am sure the taste is delicious!

jenny1963 said...

Yum! What a delicious stew!

I made it today with grass-fed beef, and only with few modifications (mostly secondary to having a four year old.) So, we used no mushrooms, and we had no potatoes, as we usually low-carb to some extent....but, despite these changes, the stew was AWESOME!!

My 4 year old "added" flash frozen corn and peas at the very end of cooking for both color and as an incentive for her to try it. It looks very festive, albeit untraditional, and my whole family LOVES it!

Thank you SO much! Yours is my first food blog on my bookmarks bar!

Ninette said...

Aw, Jenny1963, you know how to make a girl feel good! I like the way you cook. Follow your own instincts and cook how you like. I do the same -- I rarely follow my own recipes. I love how your little one is cooking with you.