Monday, March 28, 2011

Just Under the Winter Wire

If you're still emerging from winter's freeze or find yourself under a blanket of grey, one way to shake off the chill is a warming stew to fill the house with delicious aromas - and after a few hours, your belly!

A friend of mine (hello friends in Spain!) made this Jamie Oliver stew for me and I was hooked.  Jool's Favorite Beef Stew is now my favorite, too.  As in favorite stew in the world.  But this is a winter beauty so use these last days of the current transition to make the most of it.  I requested it for my birthday dinner (same friend - an excellent cook, he) and late April was too late.  Not a butternut squash nor Jerusalem Artichoke to be found.  At least not if you eat with the seasons - and many of us do around here.

Rich and flavorful, blending the sweetness of the squash and parsnips with the zing of tomato in a texture and taste that I find pleasing beyond measure.

Gather your ingredients and get to work!

I go to this boucherie.  Best in town, or so I've heard.  The line out the door says it all.

Then to market, to market to gather the rest...

A bit of chopping, a bit of browning (I always brown the meat - Jamie Oliver says you don't really have to.  Dare I disagree with him.  Of course I dare!  I say brown the meat.)  and a few hours later...

©David Loftus have stew, my friends!  And what a stew it is.

Oh!  And the gremolata that you add before serving?  Hea-ven!

Bon appétit!

Jool's Favorite Beef Stew - from Jamie Oliver

• olive oil
• a knob of butter
• 1 onion, peeled and chopped
• a handful of fresh sage leaves
• 800g/1¾lb stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• flour, to dust
• 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
• 4 carrots, peeled and halved
• ½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced
• optional: a handful of Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and halved
• 500g/1lb 2oz small potatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato purée
• ½ a bottle of red wine
• 285ml/½ pint beef or vegetable stock
• zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
• a handful of rosemary, leaves picked
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/300ºF/gas 2. Put a little oil and your knob of butter into an appropriately sized pot or casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 110°C/225°F/gas ¼ and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

The best way to serve this is by ladling big spoonfuls into bowls, accompanied by a glass of French red wine and some really fresh, warmed bread. Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew before eating. Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference – as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance.

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