Sunday, February 21, 2010

Braise: Beef Provencal Stew

My cooking lesson in braising left me with the microwave fish curry but not many other things I felt like trying. They were all big efforts for something I wasn't thrilled about. What I was thrilled about trying is the Beef Stew recipe from Cook's Illustrated. The thing that intrigued me about it was their insistence that adding a couple anchovies deepened the umami flavor in the dish giving it depth without fishiness. Since I have developed issues with MSG, I need something to help with that savory boost. And I have wanted to do a beef dish with browning then braising. I have to say it was a good thing I wanted to try this for fun because it consumed my entire saturday to get this on sunday.

Plated Beef Provencal

For the full story,

I'd picked up some items in preparation - salt pork, anchovies, whatnot. Stuff that could keep. The stuff I wanted to get fresh, I saved for saturday. Although after making the dish, it occurs to me that it's perfect for this time of year - before the advent of refrigeration - because it's made out of root veggies, dried, fermented or cured things, and one of the toughest, least desirable cuts of meat. All things you would eat from the root cellar after a long, hard winter. Which makes it kind of ironic that it cost about $50 to follow the recipe as is.

All the ingredients prepped up look like this:
mis-en-place for beef provencal
I could have saved about $5 on the wine, $6 on the dried porcini mushrooms (had I been close to an asian food store, or subbed cheaper available mushrooms), but that still makes this a $40 dish. It is pretty tasty. It may freeze ok - I hope so. There are some ingredients that get added fresh at the end, but hopefully they'll reheat without causing bad things to happen. Because I'd like to get more than 2 meals out of it, and I still have most of it left.

The shopping time extended while I looked for "nicoise" olives. I didn't find them at 2 stores, and the third store had 68 different kinds of olives, when sorting by brand, stuffing, size, etc... but all labeled only "black", "green", or "kalamata". I finally went with a wine cured kalamata and called it a day. It was another two leisurely hours of prepping the food - which took a LOT longer than I thought it would - I finally got things in the pot around 7pm. Which wasn't fantastic because I was supposed to meet friends at 9. I made it at 11, and we still had time to hang so it was all good. But still. This is not fast food.

Start by browning the beef in two batches:
browning beef in pan

What I wasn't prepared for is the amount of steam that erupted when I turned the chunks to different sides. They were blotted dry before putting in, but still seemed to water out (meat-juice-out?) resulting in a bit of a facial.
steaming browning beef

It looks a little anemic in the steam, but it came out ok. I found that if I browned the smaller sides first and wider sides last it was easier to get more edges browned.
bowl o browned beef

With the beef out of the pan, I stirred the, well, beefier and aromatic veggies into the fond with the tomato paste until it was uniformly coated.
pot o veg

I didn't have time to take pictures of stirring the flour in as it was time critical and burnable. Afterward, I added the bottle of wine, chicken stock (which I made last week for class), mushroom water, and it looked like this.
pot of uncooked stew and glass of wine
Well, technically I didn't add the whole bottle of wine. One isn't supposed to cook with wine one wouldn't quaff, right?  The moose are from Anchorage.

After about 2.5 hours in the oven - which would have been three but I had a party to get to - and a mistaken lifting of the lid without a potholder...and being reheated after a night in the fridge and some fat, salt pork, and woody herb removal, it looks rich and good.
braised beef stew with carrots

After stirring in the finishing bright notes of diced tomatoes, remaining olives, and parsley, it looks like this.
final stew in stew pot

My first dish last night was straight up. The serving suggestion was to serve with egg noodles, which I have a fondness for, so I went for it today. I also used a wooden stirrer to slice through the carrots and meat hunks in the pot to get more reasonable sized bits. They had to be large to live through 3 hours in the oven, but for service, I recommend a little editing.
Plate beef provencal, wine colored

And here it is even closer, because I can.  Look for porcinis, olives, beef, onions, carrots, tomato bits, parsley, and maybe even a little orange zest.
extra close up of yummy food

Bon Appetit!

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