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A Beef Stew For The Modern Eater
Spoiler alert: It's mostly vegetables.
Before I get to today’s recipe, I wanted to let you know that I won’t be sending out any newsletters next week. Nothing bad or sad is happening; in fact, quite the opposite. I’ve got something really exciting in the works, and I have to spend the rest of this month working my you-know-what off to get it ready for all of you. I can’t say what it is yet, only that I’ll be back here on February 1st with a big announcement that explains everything. Thanks so much for understanding, and stay tuned. Now, on to today’s newsletter…
Our team spent weeks — years, really — developing “less-meatarian” recipes, classics that de-emphasize meat and rely preeminently on vegetables, grains, and legumes. Both the Food Matters and VB6 cookbooks feature those kinds of recipes, and the style has mightily influenced our cooking for more than 10 years now.
When it comes to eating, many of us like to start the year off on whatever we consider to be the “right foot.” For me, the “right foot” means cooking dishes where animal products recede into the background while plants take center stage. Not just in January, but always.
It’s a style that presents infinite opportunities. Finding myself with a pound of stew beef and a pantry full of (mostly) root vegetables, I decided to put the pressure cooker to work and produce a beef-and-root-vegetable stew that would stretch that pound of meat to serve 10 or 12 rather than three or four. We’ll eat it for days.
This recipe is a model, a guide. You can follow it precisely, and I can tell you it’s wonderful. But you can also use it as a template with room to improvise. And don’t worry if you don’t have a pressure cooker; all of this can be done (in the same way, and in the same order) in a regular pot or Dutch oven; the cooking times will just be longer.
Bit o’ Beef Stew With Vegetables and Spices
Makes: At least 8 servings
Time: About 2 hours, with the pressure cooker
1. Take a handful, half or ¾ cup, of white beans and cook in twice as much water in the pressure cooker for a half-hour at high pressure. They should be done by then. Salt and set aside.
2. Dry the pot and sauté the beef chunks with some oil, salt, and pepper, until they are nicely browned, at least on one side. Add an onion, three or four tomatoes with their liquid, and a little of the bean cooking liquid, and pressure-cook for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, get everything else ready. Chop some celery, a cup or 2; quarter some onion, at least 3 or 4; peel and chunk a couple of potatoes, rutabaga, celeriac, some pumpkin or other winter squash, a few carrots, a parsnip or two if handy. You get the idea — a lot of different root and other vegetables.
4. When the beef is almost tender, pull out the spent onion, crush the tomatoes, and add those vegetables to the pot along with the beans, some bean-cooking liquid and additional water if the mixture seems dry (it likely will not), and add plenty of seasonings. I used about 10 cardamom pods, 2 cinnamon sticks, and a few cloves. At that point, I threw in a handful of dried apricots as well. Use plenty of salt. Another half-hour under pressure will tenderize all of those vegetables and make the beef even softer.
That broth is meaty and delicious — you can continue to simmer this and adjust seasonings for a while and tinker with whether the broth is thicker or thinner, but in any case, it is beautiful. It’s a beef stew, but the beef is actually hard to find (I had one piece in each of my two servings.) No matter: Each of those roots tastes different and is scented with what amounts to a rich-flavored stock. The flavors are bold and fantastic throughout.
5. Garnish with parsley. Throw in a handful of barley or other grain with the vegetables or serve, as I did, with lots of bread.
No Meat. No Problem.
Talk To Me, Goose!
Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.