Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Stew

I think I’m getting used to the rain.  It’s keeping me indoors a little more, which probably equates to more reading (including my cook books), a little more Food Network, and more hot meals.  And I’m getting used to those too.

We were due for a little stew.  I knew I wanted to try to explore some new flavor profiles.  I wanted richness.  I wanted a stew that could cut through the damp feeling.  A stew that would wow my tongue.  A stew that left you so satisfied you didn’t need seconds despite wanting some.  A stew that said Winter, contentment, fireplace (something I miss), and other warm fuzzy feelings.

last winter, escaping to Murphys, CA.

Classic Noelle style, I started with a recipe, and changed it, adding a few things and omitting forgetting a few things. 

the gang's all here
 I really love those “ingredient posed photos” but of course, I always end up leaving a few ingredients out and then not wanting to get everyone back in line for the photo shoot, so enjoy the photo, but use the actual list for the ingredients.

couldn't stop myself with all the winter roots and citrus colors beaming bright

Winter Stew  inspired by Tyler's Ultimate Stew

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ - 2 pounds beef chuck shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch stew pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle good quality dry red wine (I used an Italian Burgundy from Traders)
8 fresh thyme sprigs
6 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
orange, zest removed in 3-4 (1-inch) strips
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves
3 cups beef stock
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 pound carrots, washed and sliced chunky
½ large, or 1 medium, chopped yellow onion
½ tsp sugar

Mashed Potatoes:

5-6 rustic potatoes
½ cup half and half
1 clove garlic
Sea salt
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

The Perfect Crouton:

Rustic Artesian Bread sliced
1 clove garlic
Olive oil
Sea salt

First take your stew meat and dry them off.  This is important for a good sear.  And a good sear is important for meat flavor.  And good meat flavor is important for… well you get the picture.

Salt and pepper your meat.

In your stew pot melt/heat your butter and olive oil (the classic French combination of fats- the perfect 50/50). 

Sear enough meat to cover the bottom of the pot, but not over-crowding them.  I did two batches.  You’re not “cooking” the meat, just searing and setting aside.

Then deglaze the pan with the ENTIRE bottle of wine (turn heat down first- no pyrotechnics now).  OK, you can taste a little bit if you must.  Tyler (Florence) recommended a Burgundy wine- so I picked one out from Trader Joes.  I think all the wine stockers know me now.

Bring it back up to a boil.  Scrape up all those ummmmm so lovely brown-bits of flavor town- let them float aimlessly around as though they are drunk in Italian aromas- oh wait.

Next add all the fun stuff:

Fresh thyme, garlic cloves chopped, orange zest in 3-4 (1-inch) strips, ground cloves, bay leaves (I used crushed), beef stock, and your good ol’ Worcestershire sauce.  Everything with Worcestershire sauce is so good.  I could drink the stuff.  Mom says it’s a crime to make stew, of all things, without it.

delicate little cloves before their demise!

A note on the cloves: this is the "old fashioned way" crushing the whole cloves under a towel using your wine bottle!  It was productive and exhilarating.  I just love crushing, smashing, any sort of "ing" in the kitchen, I'm usually down for.

the demise

aromatic product... they're yelling "take me to the orange!!!" in their last few words.  i complied.

Bring to a boil for about 10-15 min, then let simmer for 2 hours.  During this time, convince yourself not to eat anything… it will be well worth it.

After two hours add the carrots and the chopped onion.  Also add the hint of sugar.  I was impressed how this balanced everything out.  Up to this point, as I was tasting as I went (how can you not- I kept thinking it was a little acidic with the wine- but ahhhh the sugar kept the stew rich, but more balanced.


Cook 30 more minutes until your veggies are tender.  Trust me, the meat is beyond tender.  Steak with a spoon?  Yes.  Finish with any extra salt and pepper needed (this depends mostly on if you used homemade or store bought broth).

***All-the-while, in the last 30 min, chop your potatoes into 4-6 pieces per potato (cooking them quicker) in a separate pot.  Heap them into boiling water from 10 min, or until VERY fork tender.  Strain and return to pot.  Add cream, garlic and salt and mash away.  “Merry Mashed” --- does any one know what movie that’s from (not you mom)????  I wish I had something to give away as a prize… one of these days I’ll be a cool give-away food blog.

I like the potatoes to be stiff so they can hold up as a little bowl to hold the stew.

Now for the not-so-little crouton.  We seriously use this garlic bread technique several nights a week. 
1)      Toast bread of choice

2)      Peel clove of garlic
3)      Rub garlic on hot toasted bread

4)      Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Eat as toast (in this dish) or chop into croutons and put into any salad.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh just so good, you will NEVER, and I mean NEVER buy store bought croutons again!

Believe it or not, we actually opted for beer over wine.  Not sure if it was just what we were craving, or the rich bone-sticking stew begged for a little carbonation.  Either way- your choice.  We went with a New Belgian Abby.  Matchy Match.

Sprinkle it all with fresh parsley- brightening it just a little and sit down.  Don't plan on getting up from the table anytime soon.

Looking for another stew to try?  Check out my Savory Beer Stew.


  1. Wow, Noelle! This reminds me of the movie, "Julia and Julia!" It is written well, great photos and nice detailed instructions that I can follow to hopefully make it as great as you have. I'm impressed! And I miss you! :) Bon a petit!

  2. I lost your blog link. There you are! You've been very busy in the kitchen. I have a few posts to catch up on. I love it when you post a new blog link on FB-- that helps me keep up with your recipes. (Hint, hint.) How can you go wrong with Tyler? He's my hero. I finally got to meet him-- my life on earth is complete. :)