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Recipes and Stories

22 January 2016: Cleaning Day Beef Vegetable Stew

Cleaning Day Beef Stew: the Le Creuset enameled iron pot was the perfect thing for a slow, mostly unattended simmer

Cleaning out the cooking school kitchen at Kitchenware Outfitters, emptying the pantry of “what is THAT doing in here,” outdated samples, and small, unusable portions of condiments, pasta, curry paste, and so forth, dusting and reorganizing drawers, dish cupboards, and pot cabinets, is never my idea of a good time, but it has to be done periodically and the downtime before classes begin is the sensible time to do it.

And, truth to tell, there’s something cathartic about it that is really satisfying.

I’d been doing bits and pieces ever since things settled down from the holiday shopping rush, but wanted to get the job done, so when a large window of time opened up yesterday, I rolled up my sleeves and got to it.

It was a raw, overcast day, so before plowing into the cupboards, we decided that I should put together a nice, hearty beef stew to fill the store with its comforting smells. While I cleaned, sorted, and dusted, it simmered lazily in a 5½-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven set on a portable induction cooktop in the store’s atrium.

The recipe was made up of partly planned ingredients from a slow-cooker stew for my next newspaper column and an impromptu blending of what I’d found in the cooking school pantry and cupboards, so feel free to make it your own by changing out the herbs and spices, condiments, simmering liquid, and vegetable selections.

Serves 6

2½ pounds beef chuck roast
2-3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
Salt and whole black pepper in a mill
6 small yellow onions
5-6 medium carrots
4-5 medium ribs celery
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons instant blending flour
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (herb blend—available in most supermarkets)
3 cups beef broth
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
3 large russet potatoes
½ cup minced parsley

1. Trim and cut the beef into 1½-inch cubes. Trim, split lengthwise, peel, onions. Cut 1 onion into small dice; cut remaining onions into quarters. Wash, peel, and cut carrots into 1-inch lengths. Wash, string, and cut celery into 1-inch lengths.

2. Put the oil in a heavy 5-7 quart enameled iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Dry the meat well with paper towels and put enough of it in the pan to fill it without crowding (you may have to do it in 2-3 batches). Raise heat to medium high and brown well on all sides. Remove the meat and season it with salt and pepper. Add the diced onion and sauté until golden.

3. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, then sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly. When it’s bubbling and smooth, return the beef to the pot and sprinkle it with the Italian seasoning toss to coat it well. Stir in the broth and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly thickened. Add the bay leaf, Worcestershire, tomato paste, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and celery, and lightly season with salt and pepper.

4. Bring it to a simmer and reduce the heat to the slowest simmer you can manage. Simmer for 2½ hours. Scrub, peel, and quarter potatoes and add them to the pot. Gently stir until they’re submerged in the sauce and simmer another 1½ hours, or until the meat and potatoes are very tender. Gently fold in all but 2 tablespoons of the parsley and serve with a garnishing sprinkle of the remaining parsley and crusty bread.

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