Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How do you make your daughter happy?

You FINALLY get around to posting the recipe directions to BEEF STEW per her request. (Yes, we are a meat eating family here, having grown up in farm area. Sorry for those who are non-meat eaters, there is knitting and Dad information at the bottom of the recipe.)


Supplies: I like to find meat to cut up myself. That way I can control the amount of fat. Generally, I pick a chuck roast type of meat cut, about 2-3 pounds depending upon how many you're going to serve. (When I was cooking for 6 people, I'd go with 4 pounds of meat, or so). Tonight's meal was only for my Mom and me, with planned leftovers for her to freeze. So, we're using this 2 pounds of chuck roast and a one pound package of stew meat she already had. Then you'll need potatoes, I like to use 1 and 1/2 per serving or whatever you can fit into the pan, and 1 large carrot per serving. You can always adjust your carrots and potatoes to the size of your pan, or what you like in your stew.Then, you'll also need flour, Greek Seasoning, vegetable oil and one can of beef broth.

There are two ways to 'sear' your meat. You can choose to use a skillet, which you'll have to transfer them out of, or just use the dutch oven pan you'll finish the stew in. I like a large dutch oven about 6 quarts size. 4 quarts is just too small for the amounts that I'm used to cooking in. If you're making a smaller amount, the 4 quart size is just fine.

To begin with, in a small bowl, or a plastic zip top bag, mix about a cup of flour (all purpose type, with a soup spoon's amount of Greek seasoning. (this is one of those recipes where you don't need to be exact! ) Mix them all together.

Cut up the meat into 'chunks' about 1 1/2" sizes, cutting away the fat and throwing it away.

Dredge the meat chunks into the flower/seasoning mixture. If you're using a zip bag, close the zip top and shake the meat to cover the pieces with the flour mixture. Shake off the extra flour.

Heat the burner on medium high to high heat. You want the bottom of your pan hot to heat up the oil to sear the side of the meat. Pour in enough oil to make a circle about 2 1/2" in diameter. Roll the pan around to get the oil coated over the whole bottom of the pan. When you put the meat into the heated oil, it should make a sizzling noise. Stay with the pan! Do not walk away during this part.

Keep turning the pieces over until all sides are nicely browned. This will sear in the juices while it is cooking. Don't remove from the pan (Unless you have used a frying pan/skillet, then you can transfer them into the dutch oven.) Once they are browned, slide them to the side and stack them up while adding additional pieces to be browned. The flour on the bottom of the pan will help to make the stock thick, but don't let it burn. Scrap it often to keep it from burning.

By now, all pieces should be darkly browned. The bottom of the pan will have lots of stuff stuck to it. If you're using the frying pan, you're going to pour in the beef broth and bring it to a boil. Add at least one can's worth of water to the pan. As it comes to a boil, keep scraping the bottom of the pan with your spoon to loosen all the stuck on stuff. This is going to give you a nice thick gravy. Pour in enough extra water to completely cover the meat by at least one inch.

Put the cover nearly over the pan (let some steam escape) to bring it to a boil faster. Then REMOVE the cover. You want the meat to come to a full boil for about a minute or two, making sure the liquid is very hot.

Reduce the temperature on the burner to medium heat. You're going to let it sit and stir it every 15-20 minutes while it's gently boiling down. The liquid will reduce and in time get nice and thick. It should coat the back of the spoon. To be certain that the bottom of the pan won't have flour/meat stick to it, the longer it cooks, the more you have to scrape the bottom. You can use the big spoon, or a pancake spatula with a flat end to scrap it well. (I like using a wooden spoon with a flat end at home.) This can take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 4 hours. It depends on your meat and the size of chunks you cut as to how long you're going to boil the meat. The longer you let it cook, the more tender the meat will be. Personally, I like the meat to get so tender, it nearly melts in your mouth. You want it to get to 'fork tender.' Notice how the sides of the pan is covered as well. As the liquid reduces, it will leave a reside behind. Scrape these off, too. Add liquid as necessary during this boiling time to keep the meat mostly covered. You do NOT want this to burn! Once it does, you're only going to have a burnt taste no matter what you do! [wanna know how I learned that one?] Might as well just toss it if you've gone and burnt it.

Add more water again and stir it into the thick gravy. It will be quite thin at this point. Bring the temperature back up to medium high to high heat, so it begins to boil.

While it's boiling, wash, cut off the end tips, and cut your carrots into chunks. I don't generally peel the carrots, since the vitamins are in the skin. But I will give them a good scrub with a nylon scrubby or a vegetable brush to clean them up. Once the liquid is at a boil, drop in the carrots. Carrots cook longer than the potatoes, so you're going to do them first. Also, I don't like to use those bags of carrots prefixed from the store. They're actually cut from the large carrots and then charged a lot of extra money. While they're great to buy to snack on when you don't have time to fix them, they've taken off the skin and made them smaller from the bigger, cheaper carrots. And tossed out the vitamins for the most part.

If you are going to add potatoes with their skins on (which I do quite often-again for the vitamin factor) make sure you wash and srub them very clean. If not, still clean them and skin them. Cut them in half to make them lay flat on your cutting board before cutting them into good sized chunks, about the same length as your carrots and beef pieces. [Laying the potatoes on their flat side, helps to prevent you from cutting your hand/fingers.] (ask me how I learned that one! Trust me, stitches in a hand the week of Thanksgiving makes meal preparation not so easy.) Uniformed size pieces won't cook faster than the carrots giving you a pot of potato mush. After all your pieces are added to the liquid, bring the liquid back up to a good boil before turning the temperature back down to medium level.

It should take from 7-10 mintues for the potatoes to cook. Checking to see if they're done, the edges no longer look as 'sharp' as they did after cutting them up. They should have a bit of a rounded edge to them and be soft when you do the 'fork' test. The carrots should also be fork tender, as well. The final test? the stove top and sides of the pan will quite likely be a mess. (ha ha). With luck, your liquid will have reduced back down to a nice thick gravy. This particular pot of stew didn't. I was short on time and only let the meat cook for 1 1/2 hours. After being at the hospital with Dad for so much time, we were hungry!

Now, because I was making extra to freeze, the gravy wasn't as thick as I generally make it. I wanted the extra liquid for freezing. You can adjust the recipe depending on how you like it. Want more flavor? add more Greek seasoning (it's a good pepper type of a taste). You can change the whole recipe the way you like it. Its the kind of thing that you'll perfect the more often you make it. More or less meat? More or less carrots and pototoes? Add onions when you're browning the meat? Or be like my Mom and use ketchup on it when you go to eat it [personal opinion...yuck!] But to each his own. I grew up with this served on flat plates. My family likes a bit more liquid so I serve it in the bowls. Mom liked the extra liquid so she could sop it up with a slice of bread. She thinks Dad will like it too, once he's home and eatting reguar dinners again. After 6 weeks of a liquid diet, he's starting in on soft foods!

The KBB Baby Blanket is finally finished! I stayed up until 5am Sunday night/Monday morning to be able to say it was finished all in Michigan! Yes, I am tired (well, for many reasons as well.) The details on the blanket: 4 skeins and about 12 yards of Lion Brand wool-ease in Navy with (US)7 (4.5mm) addi turbo needles in a 40" length. I'm going to make another U of M BSJ sweater to go with it, per request. I''ve never used Lion Brand Wool-Ease for a baby blanket before, but I"m hoping the wool content will make it warmer for a winter born baby, especially in a car seat situation. I used the KBB pattern as written over there <<<----there. I find it interesting when using another yarn for hte same pattern to see the difference it makes. On a baby blanket, the difference in gauge doesn't really matter. But it certainly demonstrates why those pesky gauge swatches really do matter for fitted garments. Using the Simply Soft/TLC Lustre in the original pattern, makes it a 36" square blanket. This one came out 34" x 39" long. So it knitted up narrower and taller with the Wool-ease. Interesting, no?

I have now left Michigan. Dad is showing great signs of improvement! He's eating soft foods, and begining regular foods at last! The next recipe? Well, he had some of it the afternoon I left Michigan. It's soooooooooooooooo good to see him back to himself. Over the weekend I was pretty sure I'd be staying another month. He developed a blood infection from his picc line (2nd time this hospital stay) not being changed fast enough. He was hallucinating Thursday and Friday and that scared me to no end. I stayed on Friday night past midnight to make sure the picc line was changed and he would show signs of improvement. Saturday morning, Dad was a whole new patient in the bed! A total night and day difference. He was back to his 'Sunday Service' voice and in command. By Sunday evening he even told Mom and me that we needed to have a hour of 'quiet time'! Imgaine that...I was told to shush up! ha ha...That was when I figured it was time to go home. Dad is FINALLY on the right side of getting better! (hoping and praying) When I went to see him on Monday before heading down to the airport, Mom and I were teasing him about the shushing up the previous night. Mom was laughing when she reminded him that they'd called me "Chatty Cathy" when I was little. I guess somethings never change. (insert a big fat grin here!)


Heidi said...

Glad to hear your dad is doing better. Safe travels home.

Jennifer said...

Wow - that's a great tutorial on Beef Stew. Thanks for all the wonderful pictures and tips. I'm actually making a Mega-Batch of Beef Stew next week for our homeless shelter. I'll be sure to refer to your tips.