16 October 2012

Greek Stew


Hi everybody!  Sorry for the long break in posts - the past few months have been crazy (as many of you know already) and I haven't had much time to devote to blogging.

The first recipe to be posted after such a long hiatus is one of the last meat dishes that I made in Houston. My mom used to make it often when I was growing up, and it's one of my favourite dishes to prepare for when we have friends come over for dinner.  I would imagine that you could actually make this a vegetable stew if you for any reason aren't eating meat.

Ingredients:
  • 2-3 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1.5-2 inch cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic (optional)
  • semi-sweet or dry red wine
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 2-3 medium celery ribs
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 lb small red potatoes
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 lb green beans (frozen is fine)
  • salt and black pepper
The first step is to heat a small amount of olive oil in a deep pot or dutch oven.  Brown the beef cubes in batches to ensure that they get nice and brown on all sides.  Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the meat to a bowl and set aside for now.

Toss the onions directly into the same oil that you used for the beef (add a little more if necessary to prevent burning).  Saute the onions until soft and add the garlic, stirring just until you can really smell the garlic.

Now add a generous amount of red wine.  I think I used an Australian Shiraz, but any dry red wine that you like to drink will work.  By generous amount, I estimate that I usually use about a cup.  Maybe a little more.  If you do decide not to use wine, or to use less, you will need to compensate for that by using some other liquid as a substitute, since the wine and juice from the canned tomatoes are the only added liquids in this recipe.  I would try a little V-8 vegetable juice and maybe a splash of no-sugar-added red grape juice, to get the deep color and hint of grape flavor.

* For those that are concerned about alcohol levels in the stew, I have read that the longer a dish with alcohol is baked or simmered, the lower the levels of alcohol in the finished dish (but some alcohol will remain regardless).  However, I am not a doctor or anyone remotely qualified to tell you that it's ok to cook with alcohol if you have been told not to. In my current situation, I tend to reduce the amount of wine that I add (maybe by half) and increase the cooking time somewhat.  I have also read that during pregnancy it's best to save these types of dishes for occasional treats, rather than an everyday thing.  Just to be safe.




Next.  Halve the zucchinis and slice them about 1/4 inch thick.  Same goes for the carrots.
Slice the celery about 1/4 inch thick as well and quarter the potatoes.





The potatoes and carrots will take longer than the celery or zucchini to cook, so add those to the onions and wine now.  Stir well and let that cook, covered, for about 5-7 minutes.






Next we add the dried spices.  Cloves (I usually count them so that if I decide to take them out at the end of cooking time, I know if I've missed any), cinnamon sticks (they give a much more subtle flavor than just adding ground cinnamon), oregano and bay leaves, which I seem to have forgotten in this picture.  Drop it all in and stir well.










Next, add the zucchini and celery.  Let those steam a minute on top of the potatoes while you get the tomatoes opened up and ready to pour in.






Pour the undrained tomatoes into the pot with the vegetables and stir well.  This is a good time to add some salt and pepper, before you put the undercooked meat back in.






Next, add the meat and their juices (this is why you needed a bowl to put them in, not a plate!) back to the pot.  Stir everything together.


Isn't that pretty and colorful?





Cover that and let it simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes.  This will help everything to release their juices.
Stir in the tomato paste.




Next, add in half of the parsley.  I tend to add in the half that has the stems, so that the stems have plenty of time to release their flavor and get tender.  I realize that some cooks avoid using the parsley stems because they can be a little tougher, but I don't like to waste.  And I do like the taste and, honestly, even the crunchier texture.  But to each their own.
Stir well, cover and let simmer for 45 minutes.  This is another reason why it's perfect for serving to guests.  The 45 minutes allow you plenty of time to clean up the dishes used up to this point, straighten whatever else needs straightening, put on a pot of rice (my family is from Louisiana - how could we not serve a stew over rice?!).  Or you could always just set the timer and take a nap...




When you wake up, your stew should look something like this:




At which point, you can add the green beans.  Stir gently, bring back to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Then cover it again, set the timer for 30 minutes and get back to your nap.  A well-rested cook is a happy one.









When the 30 minutes are up, your stew should be done.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste and add the reserved parsley.  Serve over rice or egg noodles, or even by itself with fresh, crusty French bread on the side.
Enjoy!