Sunday Stew

During the cold weather months I very often find myself preparing some form of braised beef on Friday or Saturday and serving it for Sunday dinner. It is the ideal meal for when we come home hungry from church, often with guests in tow, and wishing to eat sooner rather than later. It can serve a few unexpected extra folks if I make more starchy accompaniment, or if our company unexpectedly cancels I have the consolation of knowing we’ve got a delicious bonus meal of leftovers to enjoy in the next day or two — these braises only taste better with a little more time in the fridge. Or, provided I haven’t added any potatoes to the stew, I can freeze the extra for an even later night or to provide a meal for another family.

–braise slowly for 2-3 hours
–make ahead of time by a day or two; chill; remove surface fat; reheat before serving

–chicken stock

–bay leaves

Yesterday’s example ranks right up there at the top of deliciousness, although I must say I really love them all. This is adapted from the excellent Canal House Vol. 2 Fall and Holiday cookbook. These ladies know good food, for sure. Don’t be scared off by the anchovies and prunes — I promise you cannot identify either in the finished dish, but they add a wonderful depth of flavor.

Braised Beef with Carrots
serves 8-10

4 lb. beef stew cubes or cubes cut from chuck roast
salt and pepper
3/4 c. flour
vegetable oil for sauteeing
3 medium onions, large-diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tin anchovy fillets (about 6)
12 pitted prunes, small-diced
4 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
2 c. red wine
about 4 c. chicken stock
minced fresh parsley, for garnish

A day or two before serving:
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the oven rack in the lower-middle position.
2. Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and grinds of pepper. Toss them with the flour until each piece is coated.
3. Heat 2 T. oil in a 6-8 qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Shake excess flour off of about 1/3 of the beef; add it to the pot in a single layer and brown for about 4 minutes per side. Keep an eye on it and don’t let it burn. Remove the cubes to a bowl. Add additional oil to the pot and brown the remaining beef in batches.
4. Add the onions, garlic, and anchovies to the empty pot. Stir to coat with the fat and saute until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the prunes and carrots. Deglaze the pot with the wine. Return the meat to the pot, sprinkle about 1 t. of salt over the meat, and pour in chicken stock until the meat is nearly covered. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and place in the oven to braise for 2-3 hours. Two hours is probably sufficient, but test a couple of pieces of beef with a fork. If it isn’t very tender, return everything to the oven for another 30-60 minutes.
5. Remove the meat and vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon. Pour the sauce into a smaller bowl; return the meat/veggies to the Dutch oven. Cover and refrigerate both until well-chilled.

When ready to serve:
1. Scrape any surface fat from the sauce.
2. Place the Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the chilled sauce to the pot, stir, cover, and heat until bubbly and heated through, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Sprinkle the top with minced parsley. Serve with risotto, polenta, egg noodles, or potatoes and very good bread. I like to follow this with a nice cheese plate and fruit plus more bread. Dessert can be anything.

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