(there we go, the long awaited photo of this delicious stew!)
I write this post from the poolside deck of my fellow Pomodori, Palma. It's gorgeous here in the Desert - 76, sunny, clear blue skies. Ahhh
Back home it is cold, cloudy, and likely raining or snowing . . . stew weather; where we live in Canada stews pop up on the menu with great frequency from September to March. There is nothing like a pot of slowly cooked meat and vegetables to help you forget the hellish weather outside the house.
Well, a few bottles of vino from the cellar might assist as well but stew won't make you stupid or give you a headache the next morning.
I originally made this stew a few weeks ago when we were in the midst of renovations; we needed a pot of comfort! Unfortunately I forgot to do my post before I left for vacation. So here I am writing my post in the desert but my pic is back home on my PC. According to those annoying Microsoft commercials I should be able to access my photos at home from this lap top here but I am too stupid to figure it out . . . and I am vacation so I really can't be bothered. *smile*
The photo will come, yes it shall.
I was quite curious about this stew because it doesn't call for the beef to be dredged in flour prior to browning it. I've made a gazillion stews over the years and the first step is always to dredge the beef in flour and then brown it. This is not in Marcella's recipe - in fact you just brown the beef as it is. I was so tempted to just dredge anyway because it is what I have always done but then remembered that the purpose of this challenge was to learn alternative ways of cooking. Marcella, never having led me astray in the past, was to be listened to.
I know from previous stews that you have to put the vegetables in carefully - if a soft vegetable gets added at the beginning of the cooking time it shall be mush after 2 hours of slow cooking or if a harder vegetable gets added at the end your fellow stew eaters will have far more of a crunch than they may desire. One does not want mush or crunch – you want everything to be cooked to perfection.
Marcella describes it beautifully:
the onions first, because they must cook alongside the meat from the beginning, suffusing it with sweetness; the carrots after awhile; the celery later to keep its springly fragrance from being submerged; and at the very last, the peas.
The result is a delicious stew with perfectly cooked vegetables. This stew is surprisingly uncomplicated by herbs, garlic, or other seasonings. The flavours are what comes naturally from the beef, vegetables, and the wine. Marcella suggests a sturdy red wine - a Barbera, perhaps. I took her advice and added a wonderful Barbera . . . the wine may have cost more than the beef but it sure made a difference.
I am not sure why the lack of herbs and garlic surprised me – if Marcella has taught us NOTHING throughout this activity it is that the best flavor comes from meals that are simple, made with fresh, high quality ingredients. Herbs and other seasonings are to be used sparingly so that the natural flavours are not masked.
This stew is a perfect example of how this works to perfection.