Sunday, November 2, 2014

Rock Around The Clock - Beef Stew in Red Wine and Sofrito

I had trouble sleeping for the stupidest reason imaginable - I was cold.  My feet, my hands, my whole being, all uncomfortably freezing cold.  Every part of me except for the back of my neck, and that was because Woody settled down there to sleep.

I finally added layers to my nightclothes, a sweater, yoga pants, a pair of handknit socks, and crawled under the blanket, covering most of my head in the process.  I would have added a hat to my ensemble, but my superstitious nature would not allow me to put a hat on the bed.  It never got below 55 degrees out there, by the way.  Once I fell asleep, I slept well, especially as I luxuriated through that extra hour that magically appeared about 2 AM.  If I didn't know I have to give the hour back come next spring, I'd be even happier.  But I'm the person who gets jet lag from driving back and forth to the Central Time Zone, and happiness is relative anyway.

This morning, feeling reasonably rested, I set out to tackle some of the items on my cooking list. I had 4 pounds of gorgeous stew meat, already cut into nice big chunks, and some fresh vegetables I picked up at BJs yesterday, and other vegetables in my fridge - those were looking a little limp, past their prime, so to speak, which made them perfect for the stew.

I must have a dozen different recipes for beef stew, but I felt like doing something a little different, and that was where the sofrito and the Tuscany chicken broth came in.  This is the result, and it is quite tasty.  I cannot, incidentally, emphasis enough the need to taste and season throughout the entire cooking time.  According to my own personal cooking god, Emeril Lagasse, this creates layers of flavors which you can't achieve by seasoning just at the beginning or the end.

Somewhere out there rages a huge debate over whether to include potatoes in beef stew.  Potatoes stretch a stew to feed even more people.  They taste good, having soaked up some of that luscious sauce, but they also thicken the stew more than desirable by soaking up the same sauce.  Most importantly, potatoes do not freeze well at all.  If you do freeze leftover stew containing potatoes, once it defrosts you will be left with pockets of watery, unappetizing potato sludge.

I would rather choose from any number of side starches to accompany the stew, like poppy noodles with peas, kasha varnishkes, arroz con gandules (keeping with the sofrito mood), homemade spaetzle, or any of their less ethnic cousins.  If it is potato you crave with your stew - and I often do - boil, bake, roast or mash them and let the gravy flow.  Anyway you choose, you are going to end up feeding a lot of happy people.

Beef Stew in Red Wine and Sofrito

4 slices bacon, large chop
2 tablespoons butter
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, large chop
3 celery stalks from the heart (center - this will use up any remaining stalk)
3 carrots, large chop
2 parsnips, large chop
3 large cloves garlic, chopped

Seasoning - all to taste:
kosher salt
ground black pepper
granulated garlic
onion powder
dried thyme
dried rosemary
Goya sofrito, tomato cooking base

4 pounds beef stew
1 cup red wine
1 - 32 oz. container Progresso Tuscany Broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 large green bell pepper, cut into large squares

1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, halved and sliced
1 pound whole baby bella mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a large deep pot, over medium high heat, render the bacon until a good amount of fat appears.  Do not brown the bacon all the way.  Add the butter, then add the vegetables. Lower the heat to medium and cook the vegetables for about 10 minutes.  Add about 1/4 cup of sofrito and 1/4 cup water and cook another 2 minutes until the vegetables are coated with the sofrito.  Remove from the pot and set aside.

Add a little more butter to the pan, and working in batches, brown the beef cubes on all sides.  Don't worry about washing out the pot first, and don't overcook the beef; you just want a light sear.  When the last batch of beef is removed, pour the wine in and stir to deglaze the pot, and then add the broth and the soy sauce.  Taste and season the cooking liquid (not too heavily) and then carefully return the cooked meat and vegetables to the pot, including any liquid that has collected.  Add the bay leaves.  Cover the pot and simmer the stew until beef is tender, about 1 1/2 hours, adding the green bell pepper after the first half hour.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onions.  Cook over medium for 10 minutes or until the edges show some browning.  Add the mushrooms and cook another 10 minutes.  Once the stew is at the 1 1/2 hour mark, add the onions and mushrooms, cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

If you have the time, refrigerate the stew overnight and remove the solidified fat layer.  Warm the stew slowly, and serve over the starch-of-your-choice.  Heartwarmingly delicious, I promise.

To round out the meal, start with a wedge salad and hot rolls or biscuits.  Enjoy!

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