Even in O.C., we are often surprised by late night rain storms that continue through morning into milder showers and often conclude with afternoon beach time bliss.
To satisfy ourselves with this capricious weather, I suggest a comfy dinner of stew — not your basic crock pot of meat, veggies and gooey tomato sauce. Instead, I offer you a soul-satisfying, adventure of rich beef, mushrooms and pearl onions, blanketed with a smooth, wine-embraced sauce.
If company is coming, this stew, flavored with sherry and red wine, will be most impressive. My mother taught me this recipe many years ago during her cooking days, and I have prepared it during my college years through
now. I often receive phone calls from friends who have tasted it, remembered it and are requesting instructions to prepare it themselves that very day.
To accompany this stew, I suggest an update of classic mashed potatoes. You have undoubtedly heard of mashed potatoes and roasted garlic, or mashed potatoes and herbs. But have you tried mashed potatoes and mashed cauliflower? To keep this a Kosher-friendly dish, I have dropped the heavy cream and/or half-and-half and butter, in favor of olive oil and veggie broth. Other dishes to complement might be honey-glazed carrots and/or string beans amandine. I always like to accompany my dinners with a bowl of cut-up fresh seasonal fruit and crusty bread.
Dessert is a must. A significant selection of something rich and chocolaty is always appreciated. You can purchase a flourless chocolate cake through a favorite bakery. Custards and meringues and macaroons are
always winners. OCJL readers can look forward to my column next month for Passover, in which I will feature several well-loved chocolate pastries.
Because this stew takes many hours of oven “stewing,” it is best to prepare it a day in advance. Then, you can simply reheat with the addition of more wine and/or broth.
Two generous pounds lean stew meat
Two tablespoons olive oil (possibly more)
One tablespoon cooking oil (possibly more)
One half cup dry sherry
One pound small mushrooms (one half pound each of white and of crimini),
with the very bottom of the stems trimmed
Two carrots, scraped and sliced
One half onion, diced
Kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste
Two to three (possibly more) cups hearty red wine
Two and one half tablespoons catsup
Two bay leaves, crumbled
One and one half ten-and-one-half-ounce cans (possibly more) of condensed
One and one half tablespoons matzo meal (fine) or flour, to thicken
One half pound frozen small white onions, defrosted
Trim excess fat from stew meat and cut into two- to three-inch chunks. Using a large, heavy pot that can go from stove-top to the oven, heat the two oils. Brown meat on all sides in the oil, adding more oil if necessary. Pour sherry over meat, and stir to flavor all the pieces. Continue to cook one to two minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove meat from the pot. Add whole mushrooms, carrots and chopped onion to the pot. If necessary, add more oil and/or sherry. Cook the vegetables, stirring for two minutes. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pour in one cup red wine, the catsup, bay leaves and one can of the beef broth. Mix well.
Remove one half cup of pan liquid and pour this into a bowl. Add one half cup of red wine. Slowly stir in the matzo meal or flour. Then, stir this liquid back into the pot to thicken the sauce without lumps. Again, remove one half cup of pan liquid, and set aside for browning the small onions.
Return the meat to the pot and stir everything together. Add another half cup red wine and season again with salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste. Cover pan and place in a slow oven (three hundred and twenty five degrees) for two to three hours, or until the meat is tender.
During this cooking time, occasionally add more liquid, stirring pot every fifteen to twenty minutes.
To prepare the onions: In a large skillet over high temperature, add a layer of the reserved pan liquid. Brown onions in this liquid, adding liquid as the onions are coated. This method of coating the onions only takes a few minutes. When finished, set onions aside. Fifteen minutes prior to serving the stew, add the browned onions.
Note: This stew can be successfully prepared the day prior to serving, refrigerated and reheated. It can also be prepared, frozen for several months and reheated. In both cases, bring the stew to room temperature before reheating in the oven (about one hour). It will not hurt the stew if the onions were added prior to refrigerating or freezing. But, if possible, keep them separate and still add during the last fifteen minutes. When reheating the stew, add about another one-fourth cup additional red wine and beef broth.
Yield: Four to six servings, depending upon your generosity of serving size.
MASHED POTATOES AND CAULIFLOWER
This dish can be prepared a few hours in advance. Cover loosely and let stand at room temperature. At serving time, heat slowly and carefully. The final flavor actually depends on the ingredients in your vegetable broth. I keep two-cup containers of homemade veggie broth in my freezer. Sometimes it is rich with artichokes, sometimes with asparagus, sometimes with herbs.
One head cauliflower (flowerettes only, approximately one half pound)
Kosher salt, to taste
Two pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
Two tablespoons olive oil
One third cup vegetable broth, heated
Choice of favorite herbs, as garnish
Crushed black pepper, to taste
Boil cauliflower in a pot of salted water for approximately eight minutes, or until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add potatoes to the boiling water and boil for fifteen minutes, or until tender. Drain out all liquid. Return cauliflower to the pot. Add the olive oil, and mash the vegetables with a potato masher until smooth. Add the heated veggie broth and season to taste with salt.
At serving time, garnish with choice of herbs and black pepper, to taste.
Yield: Four to six servings.
From my treasury of cooked carrots recipes.
Three tablespoons margarine or butter
Four cups peeled baby carrots
Three tablespoons orange juice
One fourth cup honey
Dash dried mustard and/or ginger, to taste
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and cook covered over low heat about fifteen minutes, occasionally stirring.
Yield: Four to six servings.