I finally learned how to make beef stew.
I mean, I've made it many times before, sometimes with recipes and sometimes not. Using recipes, I always felt like I was missing out on the real fun of making stew--not being beholden to a list of ingredients and directions, instead stirring and seasoning and simmering and tasting. But recently I've made it twice, just winging it, and it's turned out just right.
My method is basic, with amounts varying to taste:
Toss some cubes of beef with salt and pepper and a light dusting of flour. Brown them in a big pot with some oil and remove. Add some finely chopped celery, onion, and garlic and let soften. Add some wine to deglaze and let simmer, briefly. Return the meat to the pot with juices and add chicken or beef broth, chopped canned tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cover and put in the oven at 350 for about 2 hours, stirring once or twice. About 20 minutes before it's done, add chunks of carrots, and little frozen pearl onions if you'd like. At the very end, toss in a handful of frozen peas. Season to taste.
I made the Hungry Dog stew over the weekend, half of which was nice and half of which was rainy. I made the stew on the rainy day. Out our back window it looked like this.
I could look at the Pacific Ocean all day. I fear we'll never be able to leave this apartment because of that view. Who doesn't want to wake up and look at the ocean? On a clear day it takes your breath away. Even on a rainy day it's not so bad.
As the stew simmered snugly in its Le Creuset, I considered something to brighten it. While I love braises and stews, sometimes they can seem a little heavy. A long-cooked dish can benefit from something sunny and sharp. A fresh herb, squeeze of lemon, or splash of vinegar can sometimes do the trick, but in this case I decided to make gremolata.
Gremolata is simply minced parsley, raw garlic, and lemon zest. I'd never made it before but it took about two minutes. I found a recipe that called for three garlic cloves, a quarter cup of parsley, and the zest of one lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler--all finely chopped together.
Once the stew was dished up over buttered egg noodles, I sprinkled it with the gremolata. The gremolata made the stew sing. The deep, muted flavors of the stew from long simmering came to life under the pungent and citrusy notes of the garlic and lemon.
Perfect for a rainy night.