Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One Pot Meals: Simple Beef Stew

Now that we're well into Winter and Spring is months away, you might wonder how much of what I cook is local. Percentage-wise, around 65%. I'm still able to cook two to three almost entirely local meals a week. How is that possible? Well, I have to give kudos to my amazing farmers who sell their wares at the market every week no matter the weather. Even now, I can still buy meat, cheese, dairy and a few fruits and vegetables. Miraculously, there are even a couple stands that sell fresh lettuce! Granted, it's at a murderously high price right now, but still it's nice to see.

These days, I do frequent the grocery store more often, but I try to plan our meals with local ingredients in mind. Last Sunday, the day after the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake a-thon, I woke up early and ran to the market with baby girl in tow. It was one of those days where the weather was fine and everyone was there and had everything I wanted. I bought a whole pasture-fed duck, some grass-fed stew beef, a bottle of heavy cream (for the Chocolate Pudding I'm posting on Thursday), parsnips, seckel pears, a small head of cabbage, carrots, potatoes and onions.

I had just that morning finished reading The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck and found myself thinking of Wang Lung, the farmer, who is filled with pride whenever the harvest is good enough to see his family through the winter. While I hadn't grown or raised anything; hadn't done a lick of work, except pushing baby girl ten blocks, I was proud that I fed the family for nearly a week with local foods in January. Wang Lung would probably count me among the elitist city dwellers, but he becomes an elitist city dweller himself by the end of the novel. Too bad the revolution's under way.

With part of my haul, I made a very simple beef stew. I love a complicated stew as much as the next girl - check out the Vietnamese Beef Pho - but this week I was looking for minimal work and maximum flavor. It's amazing what a few root vegetables, a bottle of red wine and some stew beef can become. There is enough beef stew in this recipe to feed a family of 12 or, if you don't want to live off of it for a week, then freeze several servings. It will be wonderful on a night when warming something up is about the extent of your abilities. Enjoy!

Simple Beef Stew
(OK, OK so the thyme is from California and so was the red wine, but everything else is totally local. I have to have herbs, it's one of my things, but there is a new vintner at the market so I'll have to check out some local wines for next time. )

What You'll Need:

4-6 small Onions halved and sliced
4-6 sprigs of Thyme
5 large Carrots halved lengthwise and then cut into thirds
4-6 New Potatoes halved lengthwise and then cut into thirds
1 1/2 lbs Beef Stew Meat cut into cubes, patted dry and sprinkled with salt and pepper
1 bottle Red Wine
3-4 cups Chicken Broth (or beef broth if you have it on hand)
3-4 tbsp White Whole Wheat Flour
Salt and Pepper

Set your dutch oven (or stock pot) on the stovetop over a medium flame. Add a splash of olive oil. Once it shimmers add the onions and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to caramelize - about 15 minutes. Then add the potatoes and carrots and cook for a few minutes. Remove everything from the pan.

Add the beef, browning the pieces on all sides. Return the onions, carrots and potatoes to the pot and pour in the wine and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 hours until the potatoes and carrots are super soft and the beef shreds.

With a slotted spoon, remove the beef and vegetables from the pot and bring the broth back up to a simmer. In a measuring cup, combine the flour and about a cup and a half of broth. Mix vigorously until there are no lumps. Add mixture to the pot and stir. Simmer until the broth is thick and has reduce by about one third.

To serve, just spoon a helping into bowls and polish it off. A green salad on the side is also nice.

Approximate Dinner Cost:
Groceries: $20
Cost per Meal: We've eaten six servings so far and I don't see any end in sight! I'd say about 12 servings.

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  1. Simple? That looks anything but simple. It looks rich, intense, and so incredibly comforting. Wouldn't I like a pot of that right now!

  2. Another benefit is the aroma that lingers when the stew cooks for several hours.

  3. Sophia, thank you! And yes it is rich and intense and oh so wonderful to eat during the winter.

    Alexandra, I love sitting in my big arm chair with a cup of tea and a book while baby girl sleeps. When a stew is simmering in the background, life is pretty near perfect.

  4. Even the carrots look amazing!

    I love that you are inspired by the books you read. what other things influence your "cooking mood"?

  5. What a nice question. I think books, the weather, the pickings at the market, my stomach, baby girl's stomach, something I saw in a window, something I glimpsed on a menu - these all influence my cooking mood. My mood changes daily, hourly, by the minute! I feel lucky when all the stars aline and I make something that suits me and my mood and my family's mood and we're all delighted to sit at the table together and eat.

  6. This looks yummy. Beef stew is a wonderful comfort food. It's great that you are able to buy locally even in winter!

  7. not a beef eater, but if I were, I would definitely give this a try. It looks beautiful and is absolutely comforting looking!

  8. I actually have ALL these ingredients on hand. This may be tomorrow's meal for dinner (then I have to find a veggie option for my oldest who not only doesn't eat meat, she scowls at it when it's served to others)

  9. Beef + root veggies + red wine = a perfect winter meal. Thanks for this!

  10. Thanks everyone!!

    Jennifer, so exciting that you're making this! Please let me know what your family thinks and what you do for your daughter.

  11. It's rainy here today - I'm totally making this. I love that you have such a big batch recipe (I have teen boys...).

  12. Kris! So glad you're trying this. Let me know how it goes! If your boys are anything like my brothers, they'll gobble this up!

  13. very impressed with your use of local ingredients! It's a healthy way of life and it's great to support local farmers.



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