For Christmas Gregg and Barb subscribed me to Cook's Illustrated, a detailed foodie magazine with recipes, but also includes product reviews, many tips and explanations of what works and what doesn't.
They prepare a dish over one hundred times until they arrive at the best version, trying different cooking temperatures, different types of cookware, experiment with the quantities of ingredients ......it's America's Test Kitchen.
One of the first recipes we wanted to try was the beef stew.
Ready to grab your ingredients?
7 garlic cloves (recipe calls for 2), minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 anchovy fillets, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
Note: I did not have the anchovy fillets and frankly, it sounded like an ingredient that would make the stew...ummmm....too fishy. So I omitted it. But from what I now understand, anchovies would have increased the beef taste due to the natural compound inosinate. It boosts the flavor of the meat. Who knew? Next time we'll give it a whirl.
1 boneless chuck eye roast, trimmed into 1 ½ inch pieces. (I used stew meat.)
2 TB vegetable oil
1 large onion, cut into thick chunks (about 2 cups)
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine (see note below ingredients)
1 cup chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 springs fresh thyme
4 ounces pork salt (I used thick cut bacon)
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch or so pieces
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Note about wine: The recipe suggests using a good quality, medium bodied wine, such as Cotes du Rhone or Pinot Noir. Well I definitely made a modification to this suggestion. I know the old rule – don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink…but it pains my penny-pinching heart to tip a good Cotes du Rhone into the pot. So I compromised and used a less expensive wine for the cooking and we enjoyed a Cotes du Rhone WITH the stew.
Slice up the beef......
Combine garlic and tomato paste in a bowl and set aside.
Heat 1 TB vegetable oil in large pot. Add beef and brown on all sides, do it in batches to prevent crowding and thus…unevenly browned pieces.
Reduce heat to medium and return the first batch of browned meat to the pot. Add carrots and onions. Stir.
Stir so onion does not stick to the bottom or sides, loosening lovely bits of browned onion and bits of meat. This should take about 2 minutes.
Add garlic-tomato paste mixture and cook stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring again, until no dry flour remains.
Slowly add wine, scraping the bottom of pan to loosen browned bits. Allow wine to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. (Or if you have my piece of shite stove be SURE you are constantly tending it as the burners do not know the meaning of low).
Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme and bacon or salt pork. Stir, cover, transfer to a 300 degree oven and let that baby cook slowly for an hour and half.
Remove pot from oven and pick out the bay leaves and salt pork if you used it. Stir in potatoes and onions. Cook 45 minutes more.
Using large spoon, skim off any fat from surface. The meat should be falling apart by now, giving little resistance to a fork. Toss in a handful of frozen peas, stir….place on the table to serve.
Doug said it was one of the best beef stews we have ever made. My boss liked it too.
We had a bit of cheese after the meal, served on my beautiful glass cheese board Mary Margaret sent me for Christmas.
I'm sending this over to Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Monday.
Much thanks to Gregg, Barb and Mia for this great foodie gift. I am sure we will be experimenting with many of the recipes in the upcoming publications.
From Cook's Illustrated, January - February 2010 issue.