I know. I was just blathering away about summer and the heat, and now look. I’ve gone and cranked my oven up for a couple of hours (!!) and made, what is known in the rest of the world as, a winter dish. Something cooked and enjoyed when it is cold out and you need some extra warmth indoors and something hearty to stick to your ribs…not something you make when the sun is blazing like mad and you feel like a roast yourself.
As fate would have it however, I live on an archipelago with no winter, and as such have never been trained in the art of “winter eating” vs “summer eating” (nor in “spring eating” or in the much longed for “autumn eating”). No. It was just plain “eating” for me. Anything at anytime. And though it could be argued that I might have waited for our much milder months at the end of the year, I can be illogical at times when my appetites are involved.
But aside from those minor personality flaws, there was another reason that brought this beef stew into being. Our local wagyu man. The charming fellow from whom I’ve been buying locally raised wagyu beef (read more here for more information). Since it is more affordable than imported wagyu, we are able to enjoy pretty great steaks (though of course not as awesome as real Kobe beef) without upsetting our budget too much. We usually get the chuck tender steak cut (from the shoulder) – it is cheaper than the more popular rib eye, but because of the wagyu’s signature marbling, still tender, fatty (in a very good way!), and delicious (if you don’t overcook it! We like our steaks medium rare). The last time we were at the market, charming wagyu man told us that he had some chuck tender in cubes, which some customers requested for soups or stews. It took us all of two seconds to snap them up.
- Olive oil
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot (about 250-260 grams), peeled and diced
- 500 grams beef chuck tender cubes (I used locally grow wagyu beef and it made all the difference)
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/4 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon pimenton de la vera (Spanish smoked paprika)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bundle farcelettes (a Spanish version of bouquet garni)
- 1 400-gram can whole tomatoes
- about 1/3 of a 750 ml bottle of red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)
- dash of cayenne pepper
- 2 small potatoes (about 220-230 grams total), peeled and diced
- 1/3 cup pitted green olives
- Heat a few lugs of olive oil in a heavy based pot (oven-proof with lid) or Dutch oven. Add in onions, garlic, and carrots and sauté until onions soften.
- While the onions/garlic/carrots are cooking, toss your beef with the flour, 1/4 teaspoon pimenton, ½ teaspoon salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.
- Add floured beef to the pan, pushing onions/garlic/carrots to one side. Brown beef on all sides. By now there should be some yummy brown bits on the bottom of your pan – deglaze with a few glugs of your wine, scraping those bits up.
- Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of pimenton, and the farcelettes and stir. Add enough red wine to come up almost to the top of the meat but not covering it. Add freshly cracked black pepper, a dash of cayenne (the amount will depend on your heat tolerance) and stir once more to get everything mixed. Bring to a boil. You can bash up some of the tomatoes with the back of your spoon.
- Once it boils take the stew off the stove top, cover with lid, and stick in a 170C oven for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, remove pot from oven and add potatoes and olives. Give this a stir, cover, and return to the oven for another hour, or until meat is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed (you may need to add more salt).
- The sauce should be rich and thick and coating the meat. If it isn’t, just cook it further on the stove top again until it reaches a consistency you like.
It goes without saying; only use a wine that you would also drink. If you don’t like the way it tastes in the glass then it won’t do your dish any favors either. Then drink the rest of your bottle with your meal…or while cooking it, I won’t tell ;) As with all stews and braises, be patient and you will be rewarded. These dishes cannot be rushed. If the meat isn’t tender after two hours, then just give it a gentle stir, cover, and return the pot to the oven until it is. If you don’t have farcelettes, any bouquet garni will do.
The local wagyu fared excellently in this dish! So soft and melty with the added unctuousness only a good marbling of fat can give. C and I were won over, absolutely and unequivocally, ignoring the sweat on our brows and the incongruity of the moment…digging deep into this bowl of cold weather food on a warm summer night.
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