Notes on a Recipe – Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew

9 Feb

peterandthewolffrontcover

As I said here, I’m enjoying the fact that the current season of Barefoot Contessa is based on her new cookbook.  Watching the show with the book on my lap reminds me of those storybooks that came with records.  You listened to the record as it read you the book.  My favorite was Peter and the Wolf.  I’m telling you, somebody is missing a golden opportunity to do this with cookbooks.

Having spent the weekend with Ina…ok, she was on my tv for thirty minutes…I made one recipe and put two others into the test pile.  There is a reason that I never serve a recipe to guests until I’ve tested it.  Sometimes the dish misses the mark and needs to be tweaked.  I think the Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew falls into this category that I like to call Not Living Up To Its Potential.

I managed to remember that the recipe calls for the cubed beef to marinate overnight.  But Ina, why would you tell me to marinate the beef in an entire bottle of red wine if I’m only going to use 2 1/2 cups of it in the stew?  Seriously, I’m glad I read the recipe all the way through before I started because I was able to save at least one cup of wine to enjoy later.

Later, as in when it came time to wash all the dishes that you call for in preparing the ingredients.  Why wouldn’t you just use the Dutch oven you plan to cook the stew in to do your browning and sauteing and move the cooked/browned ingredients to a separate plate?  It’s easier for me to fit a large plate or bowl into the dishwasher than to hand wash my biggest frying pan.  Less is more Ina; less is more.

And speaking of less, I think next time I will try searing the beef without the flour dredge, or maybe only on half of the beef cubes.  It made the final stew too gummy and it certainly eliminated the need to add any flour to thicken things up at the end.  I had to add at least two more cups of beef broth before serving.

I love a good beef stew and I think this one certainly has potential.  But it’s just not there yet.    So if you come over to our place hoping for the Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew, I hope you won’t be disappointed if it’s not on the menu.

Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew

This is the recipe as it appears in her new cookbook.  Use your taste and sensibilities to adjust it as you see fit.  Consider scaling the recipe in half to make a smaller test batch.

  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef, cut into 1 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle red wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 ounces bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can beef stock
  • 1 large branch fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen peas (not petit pois)

Place the beef in a bowl with the red wine, garlic cloves, and bay leaves.  Cover the bowl and marinate the beef in the refrigerator overnight.

Brown the bacon in a large (12 inch) saute pan for 5 to 7 minutes, over medium heat.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a Dutch oven.  Combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper in a bowl.  Lift the beef out of the marinade and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade.

In batches, dredge the beef cubes in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess.

In the same saute pan, brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Place the browned beef in the Dutch oven with the bacon and brown the remaining beef.  Add the second batch to the Dutch oven.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Lower the heat under the saute pan to medium low, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, adding olive oil if necessary.  Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the carrotts and potatoes and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven with the beef.

Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade (discard the rest) to the saute pan and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon.  Add the beef stock, rosemary, sundried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper.  Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven for 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking.  If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the oven to 275 degrees.

When the stew is done and the meat is tender, discard the rosemary branch.  Ladle 1 cup of the pan juices into a bowl and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.  Pour it back into the stew, stir gently, and simmer for 3 minutes, until thickened.  Stir in the frozen peas, season to taste, and serve.

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