Friday, August 2, 2013

Beef stew over the fire, without scallops

It's a working title, but I'll explain....

It was shockingly cold here this past weekend. In fact, for runners and walkers of the Bix 7, it was the coldest race on record. 56 degrees at 7:30 a.m.! Ridiculously awesome.

On a day in July that barely breaks 70 degrees at the high, soup over the fire is expected — nay, demanded. I decided on a sort of beef stew. Really thick, with some beer bread to boot.

It surprises me now, but I sort of did this by feel. I have a recipe for you, but when I was throwing it together, it was a second-by-second decision of what to put in, or not. We forgot the green beans, which was a bummer, as we had some in the garden. You could also add a can, though.

In fact, this is a riff of sorts on a family favorite, Beef Barley Soup, which my grandma made in glorious quantities when she was alive. My aunt sent us the copy of the Chicago Tribune recipe once upon a time, though I haven't made it in years.

In any case, it hit the spot, and the fire was welcome for the heat as well as its cooking abilities.

At one point, however, D insisted upon adding scallops. He's become a bit obsessed with seafood lately, and we happened to get some at the market that day. I tried to be open-minded. Really! And whether it was the look on my face, or the dawning of logic, I can't say. But we decided against it. (Scallops? In beef stew?!? Nope.)

Beef stew, then, without scallops

1 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-in. cubes
2 T. flour
1 t. salt
1/2 ground black pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 12-oz. bottle of stout (I used Stockyard's Oatmeal Stout)
1 small onion, diced
3 carrots, cleaned and sliced into 1/2 in. rounds
6 large brussel sprouts, quartered
two leaves kale, torn
three small tomatoes, diced
5 large mushrooms, sliced thick
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced, put in cold water, then drained before adding
1/2 cup pearled barley
1/2 t. rosemary, ground
1/2 t. thyme, ground
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 can of tomato paste
4 cups water
4 t. beef base, or 4 cubes beef boullion

Cut beef into cubes, then pat dry with paper towel, and toss with flour, salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Sear meat on all sides. Put beef into Dutch oven. Add beer to skillet, and scrape browned bits off bottom. Reduce a few minutes. Add to Dutch oven. Add remaining ingredients to Dutch oven and cover. Cook over the fire 45 minutes to an hour, checking the water level every 15-20 minutes.

Fyi, putting the diced potatoes in cold water helps prevent browning while you're cutting everything else up. This made a rather thick stew, which is just what we like. It was actually better the following day as leftovers. Serve with garlic beer bread just out of the oven.

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