Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Beef Stew Almost Boeuf Bourguignon

I've made beef stew for almost as long as I've cooked. As I have remained a single man all my life, that is becoming a long time.
My fondest memory of beef stew was at an elementary school I attended as a child. The potatoes were so tasty, the beef so tender, the stock so flavorful. I pine to repeat the lunch experience. I've never been able to duplicate that recipe. This is a forgivable sin on my part. I was too young to remember the tastes (technically the flavor profile) and by the time I started cooking in earnest, my ideas of beef stew were supplanted by recipes from cookbooks.
So, when a friend asked me to make some beef stew, I was somehow reminded of that elementary school recipe and thought to "try again".
A brief search of the internet brought sorry results. Way too many recipe collections (databases) and nobody with something concise. Then I remembered that I had seen Hungarian Goulash Mariska Hargitay in a letter to Playboy Playboy Aug. 2001 (48:8), p. 18. The submitter used caraway seeds, marjoram and sherry wine in his recipe and I thought that an excellent idea.
Sooooo, I decided to use some caraway. And then I started looking at Julia Child's website and found a recipe of hers that I believe she made on a televised show. It's called, Boeuf Bourguignon or Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms and it is an excellent recipe. More like a Daube of Beef, but without the Provençal olives and/or tomatoes and/or garlic. But I digress.

So here is how this batch went.

3 pounds of stew beef, well trimmed of fat, gristle and silverskin
2 1/2 pounds meaty beef neck bones (I'm lucky to live in an area with a sizable Hispanic crowd)
16 ozs. onions
12 ozs. turnip
8 ozs. parsnip
16 ozs. potatoes
56 ozs. canned whole tomatoes (you could use fresh)
64 fl. ozs. beef stock
16 ozs. white button mushrooms, drained weight, from a 30 oz. can
32 ozs. carrots (2" diameter at the stalk end)
2 tbs. mined garlic
1 tbs. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. caraway seeds
2 tsp. powdered bay leaf
2 tsp. thyme (added after the skimming)
4 tbs. bacon fat
6 tbs. olive oil

I trimmed the meat from the neckbones, heated the oven and browned the bones until well done. They were added to the pot after the stock. All the meats were then cubed for stew.
The salt, pepper, and caraway seeds were milled in the spice blender. Then the bay leaf was mixed with that. The spice blend was rubbed on the meat cubes and allowed to (how can I say 'marinate') when I said "rubbed". for proper English language cooking tech terms.
I recall from the Joy of Cooking something about vegetables sautéed in fat make one kind of dish, while veggies not sautéed make another. I will look for that reference. I think it's to stock making. Something like it's bouillon if the veggies aren't browned and consommé if the veggies are browned. Maybe that's vice-versa. I'm uncertain.
I browned the vegetables. I started with the onions and bacon fat. As always, no matter how much heat I use, the veggies absorb the fat and then I have to resort to another helping of bacon dripping or olive oil. After depleting a good deal of my dripping, I took the olive oil off the shelf and poured a liberal amount in for the mixed onions and carrots. After 10 more minutes there (the onions got 8 to 10 by themselves), I added the turnips, parsnips, potatoes, etc. With each addition came a little more olive oil to prevent the food from sticking. There is no way to give quantities of oil accurately here. Each batch would differ on the ingredients, the moisture content of the vegetables, the heat applied, and other factors. So, I kept sautéing and lastly added the garlic and gave enough time for the garlic to lose it's raw (rawer) odor.
Next comes the stock and the roasted neck bones. Cover, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook 60 minutes. Taste for doneness, salt and pepper.

Serve with bread and butter.