Friday, November 2, 2007

Wonderfully Warm

This week seems to have been fixating pretty firmly on one concept above all others – being warm. I started the week pulling carpet, then our local chimney sweep gave our plan of a soapstone woodburner the official go ahead. A cord of wood has been ordered... and plans to split and stack several more have been laid. At the moment, I am dawdling over my next big sewing project of two new winter skirts, both out of fuzzy polartec – long enough to warm my feet when curled up in a chair. The bizarre weather that plagued us all September and October is finally at an end (air conditioners on high in October? Global warming became a tad more real to this nerd!) and we seem to be settling into the pattern of hunkering down and playing ant vs grasshopper.

So, as I dither over which needs done first – new slippers or skirts, knitting or sewing – I'll let you in on what is bubbling away in my cauldron at the moment.

The BEST Beef Stew (bar none, no exceptions – she said modestly)

1 beef chunk (at least a pound, more for crowds or greedy carnivores, less if you're eating this alone – although, leftovers of this are a wonderful thing to contemplate when refrigerator rummaging.... chuck, stew meat, blade, whatever. I'll be honest, there are about 2 ½ pounds cooking away as I write this, and I'm not planning on sharing with anyone other then the Prime Geek. ) Just chop into rough bits, about an inch cube works well. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Heat a touch of olive oil in a heavy stew pot. Toss in the meat. Now. LEAVE IT ALONE! Just for a minute, but resist the urge to mess with it. If you must keep your hands busy, chop an onion into rings and crush up some garlic cloves (how much garlic is up to you. My mom uses 2 cloves, I use the whole bulb.) Once the meat has brown a bit, scootch it around and brown each side, toss in the onion and garlic.

At this point, part of the magic begins. First, pour in a tad of gravy master (its in a small bottle in the seasoning section. Only substance in the world that simply tastes.... brown. But in a good way.) and then open two (2) bottles of Honey Brown beer. (Sadly, they only come in 6 or 12 packs. You'll have to figure out what to do with the rest. Beer bread is one way to go..... chilled and drunk while eating the stew is another.) Pour this over the sizzling meat. Watch out, its gonna foam. Add to within 2 inches of the top of the pan beef broth (canned, homemade, or made with water and beef base all work. No time to get picky.) Lid on, and turn down to low.

Simmer at least 2 hours..... but longer is always better. If the liquid boils away to much, add more broth. 2 hours makes it fine, 6 hours makes it spectacular.

When you can't keep the wolves at bay any longer (try bribing with beer if possible to allow it a bit more time to cook) lift off the lid, raise the heat, and drop in potatoes and carrots. I usually use peeled white potatoes chunked into slightly larger then bitesize and peeled carrots cut into rough matchsticks – but use what you have. Prefer the peels? Leave 'em on. Like more onions? Toss them in. Any root veg will work here, turnips to parsnips, sweet potatoes and reds.

Lid and cook until the veggies are soft and your stomach is threatening to climb out and grab the stew without waiting for you.

Eat. Loosen your pants. Eat a bit more. Go to bed. - Alcohol or not, rambunctious behavior is not encouraged directly after consuming. Food comas likened to those of the major holidays have been known to occur.

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