The news is so bad I want to cry. The Middle East is imploding. A plane goes down in the French Alps killing 150 people and it appears the co-pilot crashed it deliberately. The President gave away five very dangerous terrorists in exchange for a deserter.
I took a perfectly straightforward recipe for a Sephardic meat stew and turned it into a complicated affair worthy of Mario Batali. That's one of the reasons my kitchen looks like somebody's Ground Zero. But as I am typing this, the sofrito is in the oven on the last leg of its cooking journey. I'm not even sure it's a sofrito anymore. But it smells good, whatever it is.
I found the recipe on a blog called "The MuffinTin Post", and I got hooked by the spices. As I read through the post, I noticed the author referred back to the original recipe and its author, Janna Gur. The main difference between the recipes was that the MuffinTin did not fry the potatoes. Fry the potatoes before adding them to a stew? Ooh, yes! Let me find that original recipe, please!
Ah, but this morning I couldn't see right, much less fry right. Which is how I decided to oven roast - the potato wedges, the rainbow carrots, and some mushrooms. Never mind that neither recipe included carrots or mushrooms. Mine does, along with a chopped red onion. So, no sofrito, technically speaking. But I have now had the opportunity to taste the finished product and it tastes good. Really good. Awesome freaking delicious.
4 tablespoons roasted garlic extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
2 1/4 pounds beef stew meat
1 medium red onion, rough chop
2 tablespoons sofrito spice blend - recipe below
1 cup water
10 whole cloves garlic
20 frozen white pearl onions
Oven Roasted Potatoes - recipe below
Honey Roasted Baby Rainbow Carrots - recipe below
Oven Roasted Button Mushrooms - recipe below
So, this is kind of a sofrito, which is a dish that Sephardic cooks prepare any time of the week, and sometimes for Shabbat, as it will hold for a number of hours like hamin, which is the Sephardic version of our Ashkenazic cholent. It is kind of a stew, but not a stew like I usually make. There is no copious amount of fairly thin gravy, although there is an amazing sauce sufficient to keep the meat moist. The root vegetables are layered on top of the sofrito, instead of being stirred into the gravy along with the beef chunks. The textures are different. The spices are wildly different and wonderfully exotic, and they pair well with the touch of sweetness from the honey roasted carrots.
Sofrito Spice Blend
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon curry
1/2 tablespoon white pepper
1/2 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
Combine the spices and stir well to blend.
Oven Roasted Potatoes
8 buttercream potatoes, cut into 4 wedges
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 tablespoon Sofrito Spice Blend
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the potatoes into an aluminum baking dish, and pour the canola oil over them. Stir so that they are well coated with oil. Add the spices. Turn the potatoes so they are all skin side down. Place in the oven and roast for about 60 minutes.
Honey Roasted Baby Rainbow Carrots - source
1 pound baby rainbow carrots
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground mixed peppercorns
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine all the ingredients in an aluminum baking dish. Spread the carrots out evenly in one layer. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Drizzle on a bit more honey after turning. Carrots should be soft and sweet.
Oven Roasted Button Mushrooms - source
8 oz. white button mushrooms
1 tablespoon roasted garlic extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
freshly ground mixed peppercorns
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut off the stems flush with the cap of the mushrooms, discard the stems. Put all of the ingredients into an aluminum baking dish and mix together. Add more oil if needed. The mushrooms should be lightly and completely covered with the oil. Turn the mushrooms stem side down and roast for 30 minutes. Turn over and roast another 5 to 10 minutes.
Now, the sofrito:
Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof skillet. Brown the beef cubes on all sides in two batches; remove to a baking dish and set aside. Add the chopped red onions and cook them until they start to soften. Add more oil if needed. Add 2 tablespoons of the spice blend and stir well, cooking another minute. Pour in the water, and stir, and start bringing the liquid up to heat. Add the garlic and the pearl onions. Return the beef to the skillet along with all cooking juices. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then lower heat and cover. Simmer for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Stir the sofrito to baste the beef. Add the mushrooms to the sofrito. Layer on the potatoes. Baste them with the the cooking liquid. Layer the carrots on top of the potatoes. Cover the skillet and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours. Once or twice during the cooking, baste the potatoes with the cooking liquid. When done, the beef should be very tender and the potatoes should be soft, but still hold their shape.
You will have leftover spice blend. I am saving mine for another sofrito, or for chicken, or just to make oven roasted potatoes.