Fall has arrived. Which means in Southern California we are lucky if it gets down into the 60’s! Still, we’ve had some wonderful gray days as of late which means I don’t need to make up excuses to make food that sings of Autumn.
One big Fall favorite is a beef stew recipe I’ve developed over a number of years using short ribs instead of stew meat. This is an easy recipe in that any level of cook can prepare it. It takes a little time, yes, as it has a number of steps but each step is simple. The beauty of the recipe is you can make it on a day when you have some time to putter in the kitchen — I usually do this on a day when I can do emails or other work while each step is cooking or when I want to cook other things at the same time.
Making it on such a day is perfect because the stew freezes beautifully for later use or, if you are having people over for dinner or you want dinner/lunch later in the week, make the stew a day or two or few before and let it sit. It only gets better with time. Then the day you serve/eat it is a breeze.
Finally, it is difficult to mess up. This is a dish that won’t be ruined by adding a little more of this, a little less of that, excluding an ingredient you don’t like, etc. Make it as is and you will love it, but if you adapt the recipe or start just throwing things in the pot, it still will turn out well.
This stew is perfect for the Paleo/carb free crowd as well. Eliminate the already small amount of flour (a substitution is included), then serve it a way I love which is over sautéed spinach rather than potatoes or pasta. Voila.
Give it a try and let me know what you think.
For the recipe, click here:
SHORT RIB STEW
In trying to make this clear I may have made this more confusing. Note that I’ve divided the ingredients into cooking sections.
This makes enough for 6 hungry people, with some leftovers for the week. Or a smaller group with some leftovers to freeze (a great idea.) You can certainly cut it in half.
While the time to cook is “24-36 hours”, keep in mind that includes a possible night to let the meat season and another night to let the finished dish sit to get more flavor. You can easily do the active part of this recipe in a half day with a lot of time in that half day to do other things.
SEASONING THE MEAT
6 lbs short ribs on the bone cut into individual pieces
handful of salt
handful of black pepper
10 springs of thyme
10 Garlic cloves, smashed
zest of 1 orange
2 packages of dried mushrooms (I like to use a variety, any will do.)
COOKING THE STEW PART 1
5 T olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped (ultimately discarded)
1 large fennel, roughly chopped (ultimately discarded)
3 carrots, roughly chopped (ultimately discarded)
10 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 28 oz can of tomatos, whole, crushed with your hands, juice included
2 T tomato paste
1 handful of flour
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bottle of hearty red wine
6 anchovy filets, drained and rinsed (or a few good squirts of Anchovy Paste)
6 cups homemade stock (beef or chicken)
COOKING THE STEW PART 2 (VEGETABLE ROAST)
1 box of sliced mushrooms (Or button mushrooms, stems removed)
3 large carrots, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 package frozen pearl onions
1 cup good quality black olives, preferably Nicoise
ROASTING THE TOMATOES (optional)
10 Roma tomatoes, halved across the horizontal/middle
3 cloves garlic
3 thyme sprigs
Toss the short ribs in large bowl with the salt, pepper, thyme, garlic and zest. Let sit in the fridge overnight. (If short on time, give it an hour or so.)
The next day, remove the meat from fridge and let sit out until it comes to room temperature. Remove the garlic from the meat and save it.
While the meat is coming to room temp, make the Mushroom Broth:
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with a cup and a half of boiling water. Cover with foil and let seep 30 minutes. Strain the mushrooms through fine mesh or cheesecloth to remove the grit. Save both the mushrooms (rinse them off) and the broth.
NOTE: If you do not like mushrooms, understood but I still suggest making the broth and throwing away the mushrooms. You will not notice the broth in the stew which will add a lot of flavor.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Heat a large dutch oven or roasting pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil and heat for a minute.
Sear the short ribs on all sides. This takes a while, don’t rush it. You want a very good sear on all sides. Don’t crowd the meat or it will not sear, so you will need to do this in batches. Remember, the meat will release from the bottom of the pot when it is ready. Don’t force it. Remove all the meat to a platter.
Reduce the heat to medium low under the pot and add the roughly chopped fennel, carrots and onion. Stir and let soften, about 5 minutes.
Add about 10 thyme springs, the bay leaves and the reserved garlic. Cook until veggies are starting to caramelize. This takes a while, at least 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and the anchovies, stirring in well. Let simmer a couple of minutes.
Scatter the flour over the mixture, stirring constantly. (If you are paleo or gluten free, eliminate the flour and use another 2 T of tomato paste.)
Add the balsamic and reduce to a glaze. Just keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickening with very little liquid left.
Add the red wine, turn up to medium high, and reduce by half. This also takes a while. Just let it cook, stirring now and then. I like to reduce it almost to another glaze but you don’t have to go that far. Halfway is a must, though.
Add the canned tomatoes and their juice, crushing the tomatoes with your hands. Let simmer a few minutes.
Add the mushroom stock and beef or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the meat back to the pot. Add any juices from the platter as well.
Cover tightly with aluminum foil (and a lid, if the pot has a lid) and place in the oven for at least 2 hours. Check at 2 hours to see if the meat is tender. There is a final cooking step so the meat doesn’t have to be quite falling off the bone here. If it is tough, give it another 30 minutes or so.
Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle it without burning yourself.
Remove the short ribs from the pot back to a platter.
Strain the liquid, pressing down hard on the solids to get all the liquid possible. This is good stuff! Don’t waste it.
Wipe out the pot and add back the strained liquid. Place over medium high heat and reduce by at least a third. This adds a lot of flavor and thickens the broth.
While the stock is reducing, put the carrot pieces, the pearl onions and the box of mushrooms (and the previously dried mushrooms) in a 9 x 13 casserole (or use a roasting pan). Throw in a few shakes of salt, pepper and a couple of glugs of olive oil. Toss to coat, then roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so. You don’t want them cooked all the way through but you want a nice roast on them. You will see it. Remove from the oven.
When the liquid has reduced, add back in the short ribs, the roasted vegetables and the black olives. Stir to mix. Cover again with the foil (and lid if you have it) and place in the oven for another hour. Remove.
At this point, I like to ladle out a cup or two of the liquid and reduce it some more, to get a pretty thick liquid to pour back into the pot before serving. You don’t need this step but if you have time, it makes the dish even richer.
Now the stew is ready… ideally to cool off and then sit in the fridge a day or so and get even better. (Or you can freeze it at this stage.)
Then rewarm when you want to eat it. If it sits overnight you can remove some of the fat from the top but don’t take it all, this adds flavor too.
Serve the stew in bowls over mashed or roasted potatoes, buttered pappardelle noodles (I love this) or polenta. OR serve in a bowl over sautéed spinach, which is excellent and a healthier alternative.
Add as a ‘garnish’ roasted roma tomatoes for an even better final dish (recipe below).
Cut the whole roma tomatoes in half and toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Place cut side up on a baking dish. Top with slivers of garlic and thyme. Roast in a 300 oven until caramelized and starting to shrivel, about 2 – 3 hours. Use the pan juices here as well as the tomatoes.