A stew recipe you'll enjoy making as much as you'll love eating
The introduction to a unique New York Times' beef stew recipe began: "Make it when you have the time to indulge in the meditative qualities of chopping, sautéing, reducing, braising, waiting and tasting. You will be rewarded with an exceptionally flavorful dish that is just as satisfying to eat as it was to cook." Okay, those words hooked me. It's the end of January, and I'm tired of cold weather and, lucky me, have the time on a Saturday or Sunday to hang in my warm kitchen and make some it-takes-time food. For this, there are no special tools required; just a Dutch oven or large pot, a skillet a few bowls, and a range.
Instead of stew meat I had 3 pounds of beef short ribs ($9 per pound) that I'd purchased directly from the cattle farm on which that cattle had been raised and was delivered to me at a meet-up point, by the farmer, so that I knew, for sure, it was grass-fed and grass-finished.
Why was that such a big deal for me? Glad you asked.
For me, pigs, poultry and cattle should be raised as they have always been raised until they reach maturity: on a farm in a natural setting; not confined in crates or sent to feedlots. That also means that chickens aren't fed GMO (genetically modified organisms) corn, and cattle and pigs aren't fed GMO soybean meal.
I headed to my kitchen and lined up all the ingredients for this meal (and there are quite a few). Recipe substitutions to the stew recipe were needed, however.
That New York Times recipe required two things I did not have: Cognac and Pommery mustard. Cognac is fancy brandy specifically from the Cognac region of France. It's great stuff; but pricey. Mustard Pommery is expensive (about $17 to $20), whole-grain (you can see the seeds) mustard from, once again, France. Its unique flavor profile is, in one word, incredible.
Those issues did not keep me from making the recipe.
Without Cognac in my liquor cabinet I decided to go with whiskey (Makers Mark); not equal to Cognac, but serviceable. Lucky me, I had a jar of Maille brand Classic Dijon Old Style Mustard in the fridge. You can see the whole mustard seeds in the bottle.
When I first read the 5-step recipe, it didn't seem to be that big a deal. It turns out, I should have paid attention to the: "chopping, sautéing, reducing, braising, waiting and tasting" part of the quote.
The recipe didn't require organic carrots or mushrooms, but I used them anyhow. Once everything was simmering away my kitchen filled with a fantastic aroma. My partner, Nan, came home took in a deep breath and said, "What are you making, it smells intoxicating."
The original stew recipe called for simmering for 90 minutes; my short ribs took 2 hours before I could add the carrots and finally the mushrooms and red wine.
When I first tasted the broth with all that mustard (a half cup is not an error) it had a sharp edge to it. However, by the time we sat down for dinner, the flavor had mellowed and evolved and was as good as I'd hoped; perhaps, better. Got a lazy, cold-outside afternoon with some available beef short ribs in your fridge? Give this a try. • Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@ theleanwizard.com.