Sunday, February 26, 2012

Carne Thurday: Beef Stew with Mushrooms

Both my husband and I grew up in homes in which the guidelines of Lenten fasting were pretty strictly enforced. While neither of us celebrate the tradition of a pre-Lent Fat Tuesday binge, we seem to have involuntarily drifted into a tradition that we now refer to as Carne Thursday. Since Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent are supposed to be free of meat eating (although fish doesn’t count…I’ll withhold my opinion on that subject), the Thursday after Ash Wednesday has us feeling almost compelled to eat meat. There’s nothing quite like being told you can’t have something to make you want it more.

This year for Carne Thursday, I made a beef stew. This one was relatively simple, flavored with red wine and mushrooms, both of which are quite compatible with red meat. I based it on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine that I had clipped ages ago, but I took out most of the process of the original recipe. That original process involved wrapping up fresh herbs in cheesecloth and marinating the beef along with those herbs in red wine. I figured that since a stew cooks low and slow for so long, I’d let the braising process itself make the flavor happen and skip the marinating step. Besides, it seemed like it would be especially messy, even for me.

I also cut down the size of the recipe, partly to avoid an inundation of leftovers (although this was great a couple days later), and partly to keep the cost of the meat more manageable. I’ve started buying a locally-raised grass-finished beef when I can, and the farm that sells theirs locally has a very nice stew beef. As it is for most people, buying more sustainable foods requires a bit of a sacrifice for me, so I try to buy less but better. You could use whatever stew meat you like, or cut up a chuck roast, which is something I often do for stew.

This stew was rich and delicious with an earthy complexity contributed by the red wine and an unhidden mushroom flavor. I used an inexpensive (very) Cabernet-Merlot blend for the wine, which I thought would work well here, but I also knew I would like to have some of the rest of the bottle in a glass to accompany the stew. I had the pleasure of using locally grown cremini mushrooms in my stew as well, and they were fabulous.

For me, a meal of stew, on Carne Thursday or otherwise, isn’t complete without biscuits on the side. In fact, I usually find myself enjoying the biscuits at least as much as the stew. That’s probably because I usually make them from a fabulous buttermilk biscuit recipe that came from Harry’s Southern grandmother. You (or perhaps y’all) just can’t beat ‘em. I’ll have to tell you about them soon!

Beef Stew with Red Wine and Mushrooms
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light, July 2008

The amount of added salt needed for this recipe will likely depend on the amount of salt in the beef broth you use. Taste the stew and decide how much it needs.

2 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil
1 pound beef stew meat (or chuck roast) cut into 1-2 inch pieces
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon pepper, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dry red wine
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef broth

1. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef, ½ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside in a bowl.

2. Add the onion and carrot. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and cook 3 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add the garlic. Cook and stir about 1 minute more.

3. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Cook and stir until the flour has coated everything. Add the wine. Cook and stir about 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

4. Add the browned beef and any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Add the thyme, bay leaf and beef broth.

5. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and boil gently for about 1 ½ hours or until the beef is very tender. Lift the cover and stir occasionally. Tate the stew for salt and adjust if needed. (This will probably depend on how much salt is in the broth you use.)

Makes about 4 servings. Serve with biscuits and the rest of the bottle of red wine.

Other recipes like this one: Beef and Guinness Pot Pie, Beef Stew with Tomatillos and Roasted Poblano Chiles

One year ago: Parsnip Souffle with Gruyere

Two years ago: Naan with Whole Wheat Flour

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