Thursday, 17 May 2012

Beef Stew

I can't determine if it's because it's spring, or menopause or stress that has made me fall in love with thyme this week. Maybe it's the aromomatic effect it has. It's very soothing and the aroma it gives off tells the world there is something very serious going on in the pot. And a true chef would strike me dead for saying this, but I really think dried thyme is just as effective as fresh since it's one of those herbs where a little goes a long way. I certainly wouldn't put it fresh into a salad and I would use it very sparingly in a soup because it can overwhelm in no time. Thyme is best used in poultry dishes and stews in my experience.
Last night I roasted a chicken and I used fresh thyme in the cavity of the bird and sprinkled just a little dried thyme over the skin mostly to flavour my drippings. And just because I enjoyed the aroma so much, I decided to use some in my beef stew tonight. What an amazing change it made in the flavour of a stew that I've been making for years and years now without it. I am going to make a simmering pot pourri using aromatic herbs just to change my mood. I make a citrus and cinnamon concoction often to erase fish odors in the kitchen. But now I'm going to invent one just for the soothing and calming effect it will have on my nerves. But I haven't invented it yet. So I'll share it when I do.
But the beef stew was delicious and easy so I'll share that recipe with you now.
You'll need:
1 pound of stewing beef
red wine
beef broth
1 onion
2 potatoes
2 carrots
3 stalks celery
sliced mushrooms
and any root veg such as turnips or whatever you like. I don't like any root vegetables so I don't put any in my stew.
salt, pepper, fresh or dried thyme, 2 bay leafs
vegetable oil
Heat a big pot with about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Brown the stewing beef and add 2 tablespoons of flour and add at least a half a bottle of decent red wine (or more unless you intend to drink some while you cook) and about 3 cups of beef broth. It will seem like a lot of liquid and your meat will seem miniscule in comparison, but trust me on this. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and add the 2 bay leaves. Put the cover on the pot and simmer for at least 2 hours. 3 hours is even better. If you're using fresh thyme, add 3 sprigs of it now.
Peel and chop your potatoes and slice your carrots and celery.
Saute your onion (sliced) in some butter and when they get soft, add your sliced mushrooms and let them brown. Use about 3 tablespoons of butter.
Add your chopped vegetables and 1 Tsp of dried thyme if you decide to use dried, into to the beef pot about 45 minutes before you're going to serve. Add the onions and mushrooms along with the butter in the pan about ten minutes after you add your vegetables. Let it all simmer with the cover on the pot until everything is fork tender. (Which means you can very easily stab a potato chunk with a fork without any resistance). Have a taste and add salt and pepper to your taste. Remove the bay leaves before you serve and slice a loaf of French bread to serve with it. If your liquid becomes too thick at any time, add more beef broth. This a recipe that you can really adapt to your own style. Add chopped garlic to the onion and mushrooms saute if you like. Use only the vegetables that you like.  You can even add a splash of sour cream at the end if you like a more stroganoff consistency. It's just really delicious and hearty and will really calm you down if you're a nervous wreck such as I am this week. Enjoy!

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