Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sunday birthday supper

We celebrated Carmen's birthday on the 17th with a prosecco toast, crostini with a variety of toppings (fresh ricotta, pesto, Tuscan beans, sauteed mushrooms), olives, and a big chunk of pecorino cheese, as starters.

For the main course, I made a big pot of stew, appropriate to the day.

I rendered a few slices of thick-cut pork belly (bacon, but uncured, which I get at the Korean supermarket), in my beautiful Magnalite® covered roaster.
  
I started with  3 lbs beef chuck, in the form of three semi-boneless chuck steaks, which were browned one-at-a-time in the casserole, cooled, boned, then cubed.  Most recipes would call for cubing the meat, then browning it well, which, though a sensible strategy for flavor and color, is tedious as hell.  So, I take a shortcut, and brown the whole steaks, then cut them up.  There's sufficient browning happening, as you can see in the photos, and it saves a huge amount of effort.




I set aside the meat.  Into the casserole I put carrots (1 lb, cut in chunks), onions (2 large, quartered), shallots (4), garlic (6 cloves), celery root (1 knob, cubed), and parsnips (2, cut in chunks) and sauteed them gently in the casserole.  After a few minutes, I added 2 Tbp tomato paste, and browned that a minute or two.  A couple bay leaves, a good teaspoon of dried thyme, and two sprigs of rosemary went in.   


 
The cooking liquid: this is the part where there is an immense variety of choices -- meat stock, wine, beer, veggie stock, water, or a combination of any of those can be used.  I chose beer: three 12-oz bottles of amber lager, in this instance, Yuengling. I would typically steer away from more bitter beers like IPAs. Stouts or porters would work, though the very assertive flavors of those kinds of beers might overpower the stew.

Regardless of  what liquid is used, you'll want it to come up to about 2/3 of the way to the top of the meat.  When finished cooking, you'll have plenty of sauce. 

 
The cubed beef was added back, and everything was brought to a simmer, the casserole covered, and then placed into a 325°F oven for 2.5 hrs, until the meat was fork-tender.  I let it sit until dinner time, then warmed it back up to serve.

(By the way, I nestled the bones cut off the steaks back into the pot while it stewed, then removed them prior to serving.  No reason to waste the flavor that bones bring.) 

I served the stew with buttered cavatelli.  Again, appropriately Irish.  ;-)



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