Winter is here! Time to pull out cozy sweaters, throw a thick down comforter on the bed, and light a fire in the fireplace. When the sky fills with ominous clouds and temperatures dip, I crave comfort foods; the kind of soul-satisfying, stick-to-your-ribs dishes that fortify against the cold outside.
Nothing takes the chill off like a hearty beef stew, and this recipe from Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station is a personal favorite. Like all things worth the wait, making good stew is a slow process that cannot be rushed. But if you’re willing to invest the time, the outcome will be well worth the effort.
This classic one-pot meal has rich layers of flavor thanks to some unexpected spices, and slow cooking that reduces and intensifies the broth. Be sure to use a really good red wine (I chose a 2013 St. Francis “Old Vines” Zinfandel from Sonoma County.) You can taste the difference!
For the meat, you can’t beat the quality of Stemple Creek Ranch grass fed and finished beef, which I pick up direct from the source at the Sunday Marin Civic Center Farmers Market. The flavor of the finished stew hinges on this main ingredient, so select the best meat you can find. The secret is to generously season the stew beef with cracked sea salt and pepper, then it let rest for at least a half hour before cooking.
To serve, ladle the stew and juices over a bed of creamy mashed potatoes or polenta and serve with a side salad.
OSTERIA STELLINA BEEF STEW (serves 6 generously) *recipe originally published at SFGate.com
- 3 pounds boneless beef shoulder or stew meat, cut into medium-size cubes
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 to 6 cups low-sodium beef stock or broth (enough to almost cover the meat)
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches long
- 2 carrots, chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
- 4 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon stemmed, coarsely chopped winter savory (optional)
- 1 fresh bay leaf (or 2 dried bay leaves)
- 1 cup good quality red wine
Note: Thirty minutes to 1 hour before cooking, season the cubed beef chunks very generously with salt and pepper. Let sit in a colander, then pat dry with a paper towel just before cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Place a large, heavy-bottom metal roasting pan in the oven for 5 minutes to preheat. Remove the pan from the oven, pour in the olive oil, then return the pan to the oven to heat the oil. As soon as the oil begins to smoke, remove the pan from the oven and add the meat. Shake the pan or use a wooden spoon to spread the meat out evenly.
- Return the pan to the oven to brown the meat, stirring every 5 minutes until the meat has a bit of color around the edges, about 20 to 30 minutes total. Be careful not to over stir as stirring releases the meat’s internal juices which will inhibit browning.
- While the meat browns, pour the stock into a large pot over low heat and adjust as necessary to keep the stock just below a boil.
- After 20 to 30 minutes, remove the pan of meat from the oven, but leave the oven on. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pan; set aside.
- Place the pan, with the drippings, on the stovetop over medium heat. Quickly add the garlic to the roasting pan and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir in the red pepper flakes, cloves and cinnamon stick. Stir and cook for a couple minutes, then add the carrots, onions and celery to the roasting pan. Cook and stir a few minutes to soften and slightly brown.
- Add 1 tablespoon parsley and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the thyme and 1 1/2 teaspoons savory (if using); continue cooking and stirring. When the vegetables soften and the onion starts to become translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes, add the bay leaf and the remaining parsley and savory. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer, stirring to incorporate all the solids and any brown bits of meat left on the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently until the wine has reduced by at least half.
- Put the beef chunks back in the pan and carefully pour in enough hot beef stock to almost cover the meat. Stir and return the pan to the oven.
- Once the stew begins to bubble, about 5 to 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375°, which should keep the stew just below a simmer. Cook for approximately 1 1/2 hours, depending on the tenderness of the beef, stirring about half way through the cooking. Check to be sure that the liquid is slowly reducing and the meat is becoming tender. As the surface of the braising liquid forms a film, stir it back into the broth, which helps it thicken.
- Once the beef is fork-tender and the liquid is thickened and reduced by about half (note: canned stock will not thicken as much as homemade stock), remove the stew from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve.
Per serving: 527 calories, 49 g protein, 10 g carbohydrate, 28 g fat (10 g saturated), 151 mg cholesterol, 186 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.