Rainy Days And Stew Gone By

It rains a lot in Seattle.  The Pacific Northwest in general can become rather gray and dismal around these approaching winter months, but Seattle has the notoriety of representing this fact.  Often times you will hear the debate between Portlanders and Seattle-ites over who has the most gloom to offer each respective city’s citizens.  Statistically speaking, neither city even breaks into the top ten of the U.S.’s most rainy cities; the little brother of both cities, Olympia, Washington, beats them both with a respective ranking of 24. In my personal opinion, this humble narrator does believe it rains more in Seattle than Portland; although, they are both different kinds of rain.  Seattle offers a mist-esque rain that seems to start in October and not let up until May (though we have had some beautiful fall days).  In Portland, when it rains, it fucking rains.  Wind in your face, drops so hard it feels like someone is pointing a garden hose at you and your bike.

Regardless of the statistics or the debate, these are both bleak places to live come mid-November, and one must find things to occupy one’s time as they stare outside at a rain-soaked skyline.  I suppose you could run to your favorite book (Dostoevsky is a winter favorite), or turn on the stereo, or choose whatever rainy day cliche’.  Besides updating the Barista Magazine blog you have been neglecting, may I suggest you try what I do:  MAKE A STEW.

Stew is the cure all to any downer, winter, rainy day.  Not only is stew delicious, it is one of the most universal and ancient methods of cooking meat and vegetables.  You find variations of stew in every international cuisine, so that must mean it’s good.  In France you can get Beef Bourguignon, which is beef stew hard to pronounce, or in Mexico you can get Birra, which is goat (the most underated meet).  The approach I enjoy to making stew is the Italian, because it is absent of cream and butter, depending on extra-virgin olive oil to carry the flavors.  I made an adaptation of Marcella Hazan‘s beef stew recipe  from her cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and here it is.

First thing, set aside three hours time for total prep and cooking.  Yes, I realize this is relatively short time for a stew, but don’t worry, it will be delicious.  Head to your local co-op and pick up the following:

vegetable oil, 2 pounds boneless beef chuck cut into 1 1/2 inch stew cubes, a bottle of red wine (Marcela suggest Barbera, and I do to), 1 pound red onions, 4 medium carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 medium celery root, 1 small waxy potato, 1 bag of frozen peas thawed(if you want), 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper mill ground pepper.

First thing is first, brown that meat.  If you are of vegetarian or vegan preference, I would suggest you use some very sturdy tempeh, and make sure to season the hell out of it(smoked paprika, salt, and ground black bepper).  But let’s not get distracted by dietary restrictions, meat-eaters proceed.  Get a cast iron-skillet or saute pan, fill it with enough vegetable oil to make it 1/4 an inch deep, place it over medium-high heat, wait for the oil to heat up(it doesn’t take too long, but make sure you wait), then add the meet.  Don’t try to stuff the entire two pounds of cubed beef in at once, make sure you cook the beef in medium increments, so each cube is properly browned.  Make sure to brown the meat on all sides, otherwise it is going to be chewy when you start digging in.  Once it’s brown, remove the beef with a slotted spoon and put it on a plate.  Your kitchen should be smelling delicious by now.

Pop open that bottle of red wine and add 1/2 a cup to the skillet or pan you used to brown the beef.  It will start to simmer, and let it while you scrape the tasty brown bits of beef that are stuck to the skillet off.  After a few moments, remove it from the heat and set it somewhere nearby.

Now it’s time to get your vegetable friends ready.  Peel the onions, carrots, celery root, and potato.  Simply cut a cross in the root end of the onion.  Wash the carrots in cold water, then cut into sticks 1/2 an inch thick and three inches long.  Cut the celery root into thin quarters, the same with the potato, but maybe a bit thicker.  The celery stalks should be cut into three inch sticks, and then halved lengthwise.

Find the burliest pot in your kitchen, we’re talking line-backer here, and make sure it has a tight-fitting lid. Combine the browned beef, wine from the browning skillet, the onions, olive oil, and one cup of red wine from the bottle, which hopefully you haven’t finished it off and aren’t all Julia Child-drunk yet(but it’s okay if you are).  Cover the pot and turn your heat on to low(but not too low).

Fifteen minutes later, add the celery root and potato.  After another fifteen minutes, add the carrots.  Open a beer, turn on your favorite David Bowie album, and sing along for forty-five minutes, and once your little party has ended, add the celery to the stew, give it a good stir, turning the ingredients well.  Now, open another beer, take a sip, and call your mother or father, and talk to them for forty-five minutes, which if you are a good daughter or son, should be adequate catch up time(and by giving yourself a forty-five minute window you can avoid small-talk fatigue).  Once you have all the family gossip and good times back home under your belt, add the peas.  Remember, if you are using frozen peas, make sure them biatches are thawed out good.  If it looks like the liquid in the pan is too low, add a 1/2 cup beef/veggie stock or water.

Patience, you are almost there.  Fifteen minutes later, add some salt and a healthy amount of ground pepper, stir, and cook fifteen minutes more.  After those last, lengthy fourteen and half minutes, set the table, call your sweetheart to dinner, and serve the stew.Once you have savored the first delicious bite, pat yourself on the back and know you are a winner(not a weiner).

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