Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Beef Stew of Hope


I'm in a complicated but strangely contented mood today: it's a day of long contemplative silences, of playing music, reading, looking at the snow, lying on the floor with the cats, and every so often stirring the pot of stew I've got bubbling away in my oven.

Heat your oven to 300 degrees. Take two or more pounds of good quality non-factory-farmed chuck, two big carrots, two ribs of celery, six cloves of garlic, and a couple of fist-sized potatoes, and cut them into sizes and shapes you wouldn't mind finding in stew. Toss the meat in flour and brown it in bacon fat over medium heat in a well-seasoned cast-iron dutch oven. Do it in small batches. Once the meat is all browned and set aside, add the veggies to the pot and cook them for a few minutes till the onions are translucent. Combine last night's leftover wine with enough beef stock to make four cups or thereabout. Return the meat to the pot and pour in enough of the stock/wine mixture to just cover (add more stock if necessary). Add a couple of branches of thyme, maybe a tablespoon of salt (depending on how salty your stock is), lots of black pepper, and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Cover the pot and put it in your oven. Cook the stew for three hours or more, until it's perfect.

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