This has been a pretty light cooking couple’a weeks at the Casa, my week nights have been occupied with no end of highly engaging and fun activities. I’m growing every day, an not always in the way I want to be growing. IE I’d be a lot better off of I could just shut my mouth once in a while, or as my Dad would say, time for the pushitaway diet.
But, it’s still winter here. It’s still cold and the family (Wife) still asks for some hearty dishes that have enough leftovers to keep people in lunches the following week. A favorite, my beef stew. What makes mine a bit different, I think anyway, is the addition of one of my favorite “secret” ingredients, herbs de province.
I like French cooking. A lot. I like the high comfort factor I get from la belle cuisine. My own families cooking when I was growing up was somewhat inspired by French cooking. It’s hearty and delicious, especially if you get away from haute cuisine. I’m thinking more southern France, maybe it appeals to me because the earliest ancestors I’ve been able to trace back to my birth mother hailed from the Dauphene region, the area around Grenoble, aka the French Alps. Romantic notion except herbs de province I’ve learned was more or less invented in the 1970’s.
Never mind, good food is good food and if I used all food I like as a genetic marker I’d be a Korean-Chinese guy from Venice. AKA Marco Polo.
One of, if not my most favorite kitchen item is a heavyweight enameled 5qt Dutch oven. In the winter time this thing is THE go-to pot for winter cooking. Stews, chili, soups, all come out of this stove top crock pot. The beauty of this thing is that I can brown and cook meats and veggies all in the same pot. You can heat it up to fry temps, and the lower it to simmer allowing you leave all the flavors where they belong, in the pot.
Beef stew obviously starts with good beef. You can buy it already cut up as stew meat if you’re lazy or you can buy your own butt or sirloin and cut it yourself. I don’t how that works because I’ve never bothered to cut it. Yeah I’m lazy. For this recipe about 2lbs of stew meat should do it for a family of 5. That will leave some leftovers.
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced.
3-4 celery stocks cut in half the long way then sliced into chunks.
2 yellow onions diced fine. There’s a technique for this that works pretty well, saves you from getting teared up and insures even small pieces. It’s slick and can be found here.
4-5 cloves of garlic minced through the press.
1 red pepper sliced and chopped
5-7 small gold potatoes, quartered.
Do all the prep work up front, saves time.
In addition make sure you have olive oil, House Seasoning, bay leaves, red wine and of course, herbs de province. Archer Farms has a decent version of you can’t find the little earthenware pot the gourmet places sell.
Like anything good, some assembly is required.
Heat up the Dutch oven to med-high.
Swirl a generous amount of olive oil in the bottom of your Dutch oven. Amount? Cover the bottom with a thin coating. As the oil starts to smoke a bit, which for olive oil is a low temperature, add the meat. Using a wooden spatula stir meat to keep it moving a bit. Add palmfull of house seasoning as the meat is cooking and keep stirring. BTW, a palmfull is about 2 tablespoons or so.
Keep stirring. When the meat is browned on the sides, but not done mind you, remove it from the pot with a spoon or tongs and set aside. To the hot beef drippings and oil add the onions and garlic. Using the wooden spatula keep scraping the black bits off the bottom of the pan.. those are the flavor bombs. When the onions are translucent add a good palmfull of herbs de province and 2 bay leafs. Stir well.
Add the rest of the chopped veggies and a cup of water. Allow the mix to come to a boil, add the meat back into the pot. Add a cup of dry red wine and another cup of water and bring to a boil.
After boiling, reduce heat to low, cover the pot and allow it simmer for at least an hour. At an hour check on the liquid levels in the pot. You might need to add a bit of water or beef broth depending on how much liquid you like in your stew. Personally I like mine a little more hearty and less moist.
Serve the stew with a crusty baguette fresh out of the oven for the ultimate French country experience.
This also works served over a good wild rice/white rice mixture.
You can also do the same thing with chicken. In the chicken version, use a cut up fryer. For leftovers I add a couple extra chicken breasts as well. Dust the chicken with house seasoning, brown in the bottom of the pot.. cook about 5 minutes or until the skin is browned. Remove from pot and repeat using chicken broth instead of water in the pot.
With chicken I’ll often substitute leeks for onions. Seems to go together better.