It’s Chilly, Let’s Stew

Stew [stoo, styoo] per

verb (used with object) cook (food) by simmering or slow boiling.

verb (used without object)

2. to undergo cooking by simmering or slow boiling.
3. Informal . to fret, worry, or fuss:
4. to feel uncomfortable due to a hot, humid,  stuffy atmosphere, as in a closed room; swelter.
5. a preparation of meat, fish, or other food cooked by stewing, especially a mixture of meat and vegetables.
6. Informal . a state of agitation, uneasiness, or worry.
7. a brothel; whorehouse.
8. stews, a neighborhood occupied chiefly by brothels.
9. Obsolete . a vessel for boiling or stewing.
1350–1400; Middle English stewen, stuwen  to take a sweat bath
Well, if that’s isn’t an unusual assortment of definitions for a word. Brothel? Really? Huh. I’ll be dipped.
I absolutely HATED stew (the beef and carrot concoction…we’re off of brothels. Stick with me here) when I was a kid. I can still see it sitting in the dark brown bowl that my mom served it in. This isn’t any crack against my mom’s cooking, it’s just the nature of the beast. And sitting really is the best word for it, too…even the way it plunks into the bowl when you serve it. It doesn’t ladle swimmingly and smoothly like brothy soup or a creamy sauce…it plunks. And then sits. It’s right up there with oatmeal, grits (“I ain’t never seen a grit before”…movie reference anyone?) and diner pudding. Plunk. Sit.
Stew…did you meet him? He’s the common man of the dinner table.
But like any good adult with an expanding palate, I have learned to love foods that I detested in my childhood. Beets. Avocados. Stew. Tuna fish and cottage cheese will have to wait for another lifetime.  They just aren’t happening. Even I don’t (won’t) expand that much. I have often said that if you wanted to really torture me, you would relegate me to only a diet of tuna fish sandwiches and cottage cheese, all the while piping in The Carpenters music for me to listen to. Game over. I will give you anything you want.
But back to our old friend (enemy?) Stew. Or Stoo, which I like better (the phonetic spellings of words really are so much more amusing). Again, the dinner-not the brothel or sweaty state. Stew has become a cold-weather staple in our house. Who would have guessed all those years ago (certainly not moi), as I picked through the dark brown saucy compilation of meat, carrots and potatoes, that I’d happily be feeding it to my own kids. Ah, how the tides they do turn.
Last night I made one of my favorite stews. Actually, it’s the only one I make now. Serve it up with a crusty bread for dipping (into the dark brown sauciness) and a few greens on the side for crunch (as Giada always says…I swear, tiramisu cannot crunch, no matter what you do to it) and you’ll have a belly-warming dinner.
No tuna included.
Beef Stew with Caramelized Onions and Amber Lager, courtesy Tori Richie, Cabin Cooking
vegetable oil
2.5 lbs. beef stew meat, preferably chuck, cut into 1-inch chucks. Chuck Chunks.
1.5 lbs. yellow onions, sliced
1 Tb. unsalted butter
2 tsp. sugar
2 Tb. all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp. dried thyme
3 carrots, sliced
1 bottle (12 fluid oz) good quality amber lager or pale ale
1 cup beef or chicken broth
1 Tb. tomato paste
salt and pepper, to taste
*Note: as you can see from my picture, there is more than carrots in my stew. I love my veggies, so I pitched in fennel, red potato, string beans, zucchini and mushrooms as well. The more the better!
In a large, heavy pot, warm oil to coat bottom of pan (maybe a tad more) until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, brown the meat well on all sides. 5-7 minutes. Adjust heat to keep from scorching. Transfer browned meat to platter and repeat until all is browned.
Add onions and butter to pot and stir over high heat until onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and sprinkle with sugar. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the flour, thyme and carrots (and any other veggies you might be using) and raise the heat to high. Stir for 1 minute, then pour the lager or ale, letting it come to a vigorous boil. Stir in the broth and tomato paste and return to boil.
Return the meat and any accumulated juices on the plate to the pot, let the liquid come just to a boil, then reduce to heat to low, cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 1.5-2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Be warm and enjoy! (if the photo looks mildly hazy…it’s the steam from the pot….yummm)
*Sorry for the long, continuous paragraph…the format is not cooperating with me today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s