Baking is very precise and calls for exact measurements to produce a quality product. When I test a new baked good, I document the measurements as I go along.
Cooking something like a soup or stew is different. I “eyeball” ingredients, do a lot of tasting and adjusting of flavors. If I feel “something” is missing, that “something” gets added. The final product doesn’t rely heavily on explicit measurements to make it taste good. My taste buds determine if it tastes good.
Take this Beef Stew for instance, I can make this stew frontwards and backwards and never look at a recipe book or measure a single ingredient. I did my best to document this recipe for you. This stew is full of beef, veggies and a flavorful brown gravy. Just remember, if you give it a taste and find “something” is missing, don’t be afraid to make additions. This is what makes cooking fun.
2 pounds top round, cubed into bite size pieces
1 teaspoon of granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour*
2 sweet onions, chopped
12 ounces of cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup of red wine
6 cups of beef broth
2 cups of carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 pounds of sweet potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1-2 teaspoons of French Thyme or to taste
3-4 teaspoons of beef boullion, optional and to taste
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste
*Make this gluten free. Skip the flour and use 3-4 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with cold water. When the soup is almost done, add the mixture and bring the stew up to a boil. In about 1 minute, the stew should be nice and thick.
Chop the onions and set them in a medium sized bowl.
I employed my daughter in the making of this stew. She cleaned the mushrooms and then I sliced them. Add the sliced mushrooms to the bowl of onions.
Slice the carrots and transfer them to ANOTHER medium sized bowl. Peel the sweet potato, cut into bite sized pieces and add them to the bowl holding the carrots.
Grab your raw meat cutting board and another bowl, yes, three different bowls in total. Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. According to Julia Child, this gives the beef a chance to really brown up nicely. I have to agree.
Trim the beef of extra fat, cube and sprinkle on the 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and garlic powder. Massage the beef and transfer the beef to a bowl. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Sterilize your knife and cutting board.
In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, pour in the olive oil. Split the beef up into two batches and place half the beef in the oil in a single layer. You want to sear the meat. In about a minute or two, give the beef a turn. Once the beef has browned on all sides, remove the first batch and add the second batch. Browning the beef in two batches will keep the meat from boiling in its own juices and give you some nice crusty bits to scrape off the bottom of the pot when you add the liquids. Your meat will also be more tender and flavorful.
Notice my picture, I had a brain fart here. Somehow I got distracted and threw all the meat into the pot. You’ll still have outstanding beef stew. The beef just sort of simmers here instead of searing. Heck, try both ways, see which you like better.
Once all the beef has been seared, make sure all the beef, mushrooms and onions make it back to the pot.
Continue to cook until the veggies are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Pour in the red wine and let the wine reduce, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle on the flour and thyme, give it a good stir and cook down for another minute.
Gluten free folks can skip the flour addition, but add the thyme.
Slowly add the beef broth and stir continuously. Carefully add the carrots, sweet potatoes and bay leaf.
Bring the stew up to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Give the stew a taste.
I like a very beefy tasting stew so I add a couple teaspoons of beef bouillon. Stir in some salt and pepper. Give it a taste, adjust the seasonings as desired.
Gluten free folks, this is where you would add your cornstarch and water mixture. Bring the stew to a boil and let cook for another minute.
PREPARATION TIP: Store your beef stew up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Leftovers are always better after the flavors have been given a chance to mingle. This stew can be frozen for future meals. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bring the stew up to 165 degrees upon reheating. This recipe will feed 6-8 people.
While your beef stew is simmering away to soften the carrots and sweet potatoes, how about making some biscuits.
2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 stick of cold unsalted butter
3/4 cups of cold buttermilk
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into 8 pieces and scatter them around the flour mixture. Turn on the mixer on low for 1 minute or until the butter has become the size of a pea. Whisk together the buttermilk and sugar and pour into the flour and beat on low for 15-20 seconds.
Dump the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times by folding the dough in half and pressing down into a 1 inch disc. Using a floured 3 inch biscuit cutter or glass, cut the biscuits. The dough should yield 5 large biscuits.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the biscuits are light brown.