Happy Christmas Eve Eve my loves! Are you ready for Christmas? I sure am.
Bring. It. On. Santa. Baby.
Speaking of bringing it on, there’s something infinitely beautiful about braising. Oh, yes.
I don’t care if your a carnivore, veggievore, pescatore or oxyvore (someone who eats air), braising is beautiful. Saucy Slow braised beef stew is beautiful. It’s also highly economical. Not as economical as eating air, which, for the time being is free, but still, it’s pretty darn close.
It’s true – as North Americans we eat far too much meat. For personal health reasons as well as the well being of the planet. It’s a fact: We eat too much meat. But let’s face it, those of us who like putting a giant piece of meat in our mouths, aren’t going to stop. It’s just too succulent. Too delicious. Too… well…. Meaty.
That being said, it doesn’t mean we can’t cut back. And when we do indulge, ensure the animals are pastured (eat grass = good for animals, good for planet, good for us) and do so in a way that makes use of the parts of the animal that are so under-rated, they’re cool. The cuts of meat that can benefit from a good, slow braise are in fact, hipster cuts: Too cool for school and just progressive enough to be considered counter-meats to more popular cuts like Strip-loin, Filet Mignon or Cheeks. Instead, using inexpensive cuts like chuck, shank or round (essentially, the shoulder or ass) can be transformed through slow cooking like braising or stewing into the most tender, delicate, hearty and insanely flavorsome dishes.
The thing that I love most about braising is the tender, incredible texture that meat gets. Not to mention it smells damn good. But something happens to the meat as it slowly cooks through the course of the day. Early in the cooking the meat will tense up and hug the bone. But if left to its own devices, after a period of time it’ll release that tension, not unlike when you sink into a hot bath. If soaked long enough, everything tough melts away and you turn into a giant tub of relaxed, soft and tender meat. Not to objectify you, but you get the point. Of course you’re more than a piece of meat in the tub, and so is the stew. In slow cooking, the sum becomes greater than the individual parts. It becomes, epic.
I’m not gonna lie; I called this recipe “braised beef stew”, when really it’s “stewed beef stew”. The difference between the two can be read at The Kitchn but for brevity sake, let’s just say that stew = fully submerged in liquid while braised = mostly covered in liquid. I fully submerged everything for this, but calling a recipe “stewed stew” just seemed stupid. Maybe I should have just called it “Stew”. Well, it’s a little late for that now, isn’t it?
At this time of year, when we’re enveloped by warmth – family, cozy jammies, fireplaces and booze – it just makes sense to put something warm in our bellies as well. Because let’s face it, 3/4ths of the way through December, we probably all have a bit of a belly. Now fill it with something other than candy. Stew. Or, “stewed beef stew”, if you will.
- 3 Lbs chuck beef, cut into 1” pieces
- 2 C carrots, chopped into 2" pieces
- 3 medium-sized stalks of celery, chopped into ½” pieces
- 1 sweet onion, peeled & chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 ½ C dry red wine
- 4 C good quality beef stock
- 28 Oz. canned diced tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 Lb waxy potatoes, chopped into 1” pieces
- 1 C pearl barley
- 1 ½ C frozen peas
- Virgin olive oil
- Coarse sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- Optional: Parmesan rind
- Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef pieces - you may have to do this in batches. Brown well all over, seasoning generously with coarse sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Remove from the pot and set aside.
- Once the beef is browned, turn the heat down to medium. Pour a couple glugs of olive oil to the pan if necessary and add the carrots, celery and onion. Stir well to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes or until just starting to get a bit of color on the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
- Pour in the dry red wine to deglaze the pan – be sure to scrape up any bits stuck on there. . Allow the wine to reduce for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the beef stock, canned diced tomatoes, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Season well with salt and pepper. If you have a Parmesan rind on hand, now is the time to add that too. Place the beef back in the mixture.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to a low simmer, and slow cook for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
- When there's 45 minutes left on the timer, uncover and add the waxy potatoes and pearl barley.
- In the final 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the frozen peas.
- Before serving, season to taste.
Do you braise? Stew? Tips on these cooking methods? Questions?