Friday, September 10, 2010

Kicking off the Season

I have neither a ticket to the hometown game (be it football or late-season baseball), nor a pickup truck in which to celebrate it, so I do my tailgating in the comfort of my own living room. This means that while I enjoy a pre-kickoff meal of grilled bratwurst or burgers as much as the next fan, I can also make a long-cooking beef stew.

I know, stew again. Yes, I just posted a stew recipe, and it was kind of ugly. Well, this one went a little better. This time the crust that formed on the bottom of the pot earned the label of fond as revered by French chefs (or “black stuff,” as it is affectionately known by Harry and his brothers). It was the dark and rich foundation of a tangy beef stew.

Not only did I want to prove that I could make a stew without burning it, but I wanted to post this before the weekend arrived, in case you needed some inspiration for your own tailgate party, whether it takes place in your home or in a stadium parking lot. I made this Beef Stew with Tomatillos and Poblano Chiles to celebrate the kickoff of the NFL season on Thursday night.

I was not only inspired by the beginning of the autumn sporting season, however, but by a lovely bunch of tomatillos in our CSA box. Tomatillos are kind of like a green tomato, although they’re actually related to gooseberries. Since I know next to nothing about gooseberries, however, I tend to treat them more like tomatoes. They taste and smell like a cross between under-ripe tomatoes and Granny Smith apples, and they’re great as a base of salsas or in chili and stew.

Tomatillos need to have their papery husks removed and a sticky coating scrubbed off of their skin before they’re ready for the stew pot. In this recipe, they are then chopped up and added to the stew to cook away and form a tangy base for the beef, potatoes and peppers. The poblano peppers in this stew are significantly spicier than, say, a bell pepper, which they resemble, though they are darker green in color. They do not come close to the intensity of the smaller chiles, however, such as jalapenos or serranos. I grilled them and peeled them using the method I would use for a red bell pepper, as I did in this post. (Since my hands tend to burn hours later when handling even mild chiles, I used rubber gloves to handle the poblanos.) The resulting tender flesh sort of melts into the stew, giving it a slow burn of chile spice.

This stew does take a long time to make, but most of that time is hands-off. It might even be a good candidate for a make-ahead slow-cooker meal. I used some of my waiting time to make cornbread and pico de gallo as well as to get acquainted with my new blender and whip up a couple of margaritas to accompany the stew. Now it’s a party, tailgate or no tailgate.

Beef Stew with Tomatillos and Roasted Poblano Chiles
Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine.

2 poblano chiles
1 pound tomatillos
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound beef stew meat, cut into about 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic (depending on their size), minced
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer (such as Negra Modelo)
2 cups beef broth (I used reduced sodium)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped into about 1-inch cubes

1. Preheat a broiler or grill. If using the broiler, place the whole poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil or grill, turning the peppers as each section gets charred until the skin of the peppers is blackened and blistered all over.

2. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. The peppers will steam themselves, allowing the skin to be removed. Let stand for 20 minutes or until the peppers are cool enough to handle easily. Remove the peppers from the bowl and peel off the blackened skins. Use rubber gloves if your hands are sensitive to chile peppers. Remove the stem, seeds, and membranes from the peppers. Chop and set aside. You can do this up to a few days ahead and store the roasted peppers in the refrigerator until ready to use.

3. Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos. Wash them well and scrub off any sticky residue on their skin. Chop and set aside.

4. Mix together the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper on a large plate or a shallow bowl. Dredge the stew meat in the flour mixture to coat.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the stew meat in a single layer and brown on all sides. Remove the browned meat from the pan and set aside. You will need to do this in at least two batches. Add an additional tablespoon of oil as needed.

6. When all of the meat has been browned, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add the onion and green bell pepper and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. The onions will begin to appear translucent.

7. Stir in the garlic. Add the beer and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the beef broth, oregano, cumin and coriander. Stir in the beef, tomatillos and roasted poblanos. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat. Boil gently for 1 hour.

8. Uncover the pan and add the potatoes and remaining teaspoon salt. Boil gently, uncovered for about 1 hour and 30 minutes more, or until the potatoes and beef are tender. Taste them to determine if they are done. Also taste for salt and add more if desired.

Makes about 6 servings.

Other recipes like this one: Chorizo and Chipotle Chili, Beef and Guinness Pot Pie

One year ago: Bean Dip with Sour Cream, Salsa and Cheese

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