Sunday, December 15, 2013

Early Deep Freeze! Time for a Warm-Up.

GOOD NEWS--of the Christmas miracle variety--is that it "warmed up" to 18 degrees today, and the hot water's back on in the kitchen! I am running the dishwasher at present, and if it stays thawed until tomorrow, I might even sneak in a load of laundry before the next deep freeze. CLEAN UNDERPANTS FOR EVERYONE! MERRY CHRISTMAS! HO HO HO!

Since the winter blast has come early and viciously this year, it's definitely time to get some hearty soups and stews bubbling away in the old crock pot. And I just happened to see the perfect candidate on a recent episode of Bitchin' Kitchen, a marvelous-looking stew where the vegetables are roasted before adding them to the stew. It sounded deliciously intriguing, so for dinner tonight, I made my version of Nadia G's Beef and Roasted Vegetable Stew. My friend, Karen, teases me that I'm always making a "version" of someone else's recipe, implying that I can't leave well enough alone, I suppose. And I know she's right, and yet I can't help but tinker.

More specifically, Nadia G's recipe called for beets (I hate them) and parsnips (love them, but didn't have any on hand). So I swapped out both sweet and gold potatoes in the roasted veg mix. I also had half a can of tomato paste knocking about in the fridge, so I threw that in the braising liquid for good measure. Oh, and I didn't have red lentils, so I used brown, and as is my way, I stewed the beef in the crock pot instead of on the stove top. So I'm not sure when it stops being Nadia G's recipe and starts becoming mine, but I always try to give credit where it's due.

Beef and Roasted Vegetable Stew
(Source: adapted from Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen)

5 carrots (4 chopped, 1 halved lengthwise)
4 parsnips, chopped (I swapped a few Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks)
2 red onions, chopped
4 beets, chopped (I swapped out a few sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 (1-inch thick) slices beef foreshank, with the meat cut into bite-size cubes, reserve bone (I believe I used a big flat-iron steak that I unearthed from the freezer)
1/4 cup flour, for tossing beef cubes into
1/2 cup red wine*
half a small can tomato paste, optional
6 cups beef stock
1 celery stalk, halved
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pinch black peppercorns
1/2 cup dry red lentils (I used brown lentils)
pinch of brown sugar
*Cook's Note: Only use wine quality you would drink

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Chop four carrots, four parsnips (or gold potatoes), two onions and four beets (or sweet potatoes) uniformly, so they roast evenly. Spread root vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet, coat with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and add garlic, salt, and ground pepper. Mix. Roast in oven for 45 minutes. 

Heat three tablespoons olive oil in a large pan on medium-high. Lightly toss the beef cubes in flour and add to pan. Sear for a few minutes on all sides until meat has a crisp exterior. Deglaze the pan with red wine. Transfer the beef and juices into a big pot and add the halved carrot, organic beef stock, halved celery stalk, fresh parsley, bones (from the foreshank), bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns. Cover and simmer for two hours (or in the crock pot on high for about six hours); check on stew occasionally, remove the scum from the surface of the stew. 

Remove and discard the soggy carrot halves, celery, bones, and herbs. Add the roasted vegetables, red lentils, and pinch of brown sugar and let simmer an additional 20 minutes. I added the brown lentils and brown sugar to the crock pot and cooked the lentils for about another hour until they were tender, THEN I added in the roasted veggies. (I would add the roasted veggies until after the lentils were cooked no matter what kind of lentils I was using and even if I was cooking the stew on the stovetop.)

Serve the stew in bowls topped with fresh, minced parsley. I serve mine over steamed rice, because that's how my momma did it. :-)

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