Monday, 2 May 2011

Recipe #15: Aromatic Dutch oven stew!

This is such an awesome dish; I just don't know how to describe it... Hence the openly suggestive recipe name. (Pun *not* intended... well... um...) Seriously, though, I have had stews of a great variety and this one possibly tops them all.

Inspired by the French boeuf à la bourguignonne, I went out and bought myself an enameled cast-iron casserole, also known as a Dutch oven. Although it only cost AUD$25, it is of exceptional quality and served its purpose very well.

My recipe isn't just a beef stew; it combines topside beef, pork spare ribs, bacon, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic and a smooth yet robust red wine and integrates them all so harmoniously; while at the same time the pork and beef retain their rich succulence. Prior stews I have tried often end up with the meat cuts disintegrating into the stew (which can be lovely too); however, in this case, the meat cuts retained their shape but when eaten just melted like butter in my mouth.

  • Topside beef cut into cubes
  • Strips of pork spare ribs
  • Bacon
  • Carrot
  • Mushroom
  • Tomato
  • White onion
  • Garlic (whole bulb with top cut off, or entire cloves)
  • Bouquet garni comprising dried parsley, thyme and bay leaves
  • Dried ground oregano
  • Sea-salt
  • Black pepper
  • Plain flour
  • Red wine (preferably a good Côtes du Rhône or, even better, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. If affordable, a fine Burgundy that's just about to peak. Wines from renown villages in the Côte de Beaune such as Puligny-Montrachet or Aloxe-Corton would be sublime.)
  • Beef stock
  • Parsley (fresh)
  • Spring onion
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Heat a small amount of olive oil in casserole and add sliced bacon. Sauté until bacon turns golden brown.
Move bacon pieces to side of casserole, or if there isn't enough space, remove them and place aside. Add pork spare ribs, sliced into pieces around 2 - 3 cm wide, and sauté until they begin to brown. If necessary, dry them with paper towel; otherwise they won't brown properly.
Remove pork spare ribs from casserole then add beef cubes. As with the pork, make sure they're dry and sauté them until they brown evenly.
Next, remove beef and add chopped carrots and onions then sauté in similar manner.
When vegetables are ready, combine with bacon, pork and beef and stir ingredients in casserole over low heat, adding sea-salt and black pepper to taste. Continue stirring as a thin layer of flour is added and mixed with ingredients.
Place casserole without cover in pre-heated oven. Bake in high temperature for about 5 minutes then remove from oven, add more flour and mix with ingredients before placing in oven again for another 5 minutes. The flour creates a thin crust over the meat and vegetables which seals in the flavour and juices of the ingredients.
When ready, remove casserole from oven, place on stove-top, over a low- to medium-heat. Pour a generous amount of red wine, enough to submerge more than half of the ingredients. Then pour the beef stock until it just covers all the ingredients.
Add chopped tomatoes, bouquet garni, garlic and oregano, then allow to simmer while stirring gently.
Cover casserole with lid, then place in oven, turn down heat to low, and allow ingredients to simmer for about 2 hours. If necessary, check to make sure ingredients don't dry up. If they get too dry, just add a little more beef stock; otherwise, allow to simmer until stew reaches a slightly viscous consistency, or if a drier style is preferred, until it is thick enough for small pieces of onions or carrot to stick to the spatula, which is ideal for a taste check.
While waiting for meat to stew, prepare mushrooms and sliced onions. Dry them thoroughly then sauté in butter until golden brown. Place aside when ready.

To Serve
When stew in casserole is ready, remove from oven, place on stove-top, over a very low heat. Extract bouquet garni, and if whole bulb of garlic is used, squeeze it before removing what's left of the bulb from the stew. Add mushrooms and sliced onions and stir in gently.

Garnish with chopped spring onions and parsley then serve with buttered pasta.

Complement with a red Burgundy, similar to what was used in cooking.

Leftover stew, if any, can be kept refrigerated then re-heated before eating. It might be necessary to add a little water and simmer very gently over a low heat. The ingredients will become more concentrated and in fact improve in flavour when kept overnight.

Next> Recipe #16: Osso bucco stew in red wine with pork spare ribs, bacon, aromatic spices & vegetables

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