Autumn has arrived. In honor of the season, Caleb and I made a soul-satisfying batch of beef stew today. Fall is just a very stewy and get cozy time of year and what better way to welcome it, then to make a hearty stew to keep us warm as it starts to get chillier outside. We also made the stew in honor of my dad, or “Zadie” as he’s known to Caleb & Sadie, because we’re missing him a little, and because he LOVES beef stew. He’s visiting family in Denmark right now, then off to Scotland and Holland with his lady-friend, Charlotte.
But, more than an homage to autumn or anything else, today was really about taking time out of my way too busy life (as of late) to spend some much-needed one-on-one time with my Caleb. I wanted to make some memories with him today…to carve out some time to be together and to make each other laugh. So, we cooked, we got silly, and we produced a tasty and very hearty beef stew for dinner and several meals to come.
We also had a very interesting conversation. As it turns out, my “future vegetarian” is not so much a vegetarian! Almost a year since writing “We Don’t Eat Farm Animals, Momma!”, Caleb is now very aware of not only where meat comes from, but that he loves to eat it. I saw this in how he quietly devoured his meal, truly enjoying every bite…that was one nurturing pot of beefy stewy goodness! My apologies to the vegetarian nation! I thought I had a new recruit for you, but I was mistaken.
Mateo’s remark after eating the stew tonight was “Caleb, I love what you and Momma made so much, I’m going to finish it all up!”
Did I mention that we also made blueberry cornmeal muffins and oatmeal raisin cookies today? Later in the day, I told Caleb that I had such a great time baking cookies with him. Caleb responded enthusiastically, “I had a great time eating them!” It’s just been a cooking and baking, and being together kind of day…perfect activities for a “lazy” Sunday in autumn.
So, welcome to fall and we miss you Zadie. Good thing beef stew freezes so well!
Hearty Beef Stew
Adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, or about 4 1/2 pounds beef shank, meat removed from bone and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium-large onions, chopped (2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup full-bodied red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Côtes du Rhône, Zinfandel, Shiraz or Barolo)
2 cups beef broth (I use “Better than Bullion”)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 pound of small potatoes cut in half
1/2 pound of butter nut squash cut in large chunks
1 cup (6 ounces) frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Place meat in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a medium-size Dutch oven; add meat to pan in two batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch, adding an additional 1 tablespoon oil if necessary. Transfer meat to a platter.
Add onions to pot; sauté until almost softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; continue to sauté for about 30 seconds longer. Stir in flour and cook until lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to pan. Add broth, bay leaves and thyme; bring to simmer. Add meat, carrots, potatoes, and squash to pot and once boiling, cover and lower heat. Cook on low for one to two hours. I like to serve the stew over buttered egg noodles. Yum!