Photographs by Matt Sanders.
This recipe comes from my buddy Matt. Remember Matt? He's the darling who showed us all how to can peaches. How domestic! The same day I went over to his house to photograph the peaches, he was kind enough to serve me some leftover beef stew for lunch. It was delicious, and I made a mental note to bug him for his recipe. Recently he dropped me a line to let me know that he was making it, and then- because I was too lazy to come over and take pictures, he provided me with these lovely photographs in addition to his recipe! Score! Life couldn't be any easier for a blogger, haw haw.
Here's what he has to say:
-Center cut Beef shanks
-Shallots (or leeks)
-Red wine (something decent enough to drink)
-Beef stock (or water)
-Carrots, Potatoes, Parsnips, or other winter root vegetables
-Mushrooms (i like criminis, but white buttons work very well too)
-Salt (kosher is awesome, sea is rad) and Pepper (fresh ground plz)
"No measurements or quantities- stew is flexible. Wing it, make it once, adjust as you go or for what you like. For example, if you don't want your stew to be as sweet, cut out the red wine, or use less, and fill in with beef stock. The best cut of meat i've found for doing beef stew is a Center Cut Shank, with the bone still in. It is anywhere from 2-4 dollars cheaper than precut "stew meat," which is an old grocery trick. Precut "stew meat" might be from fairly high quality cuts, but it's never labeled as what they are, and what you get may not be good for braising or slow cooking. AND- they're usually old. When meat gets close to its pull date, if you re-cut it, it counts as new product with a new pull date. It's a strange loophole that even the best markets participate in, so your stew meat: probably old. Ask your butcher to cut it for you if you're worried, but still, get a cut of meat that can withstand a long, slow cook. I love the center cut shank because its got those two little bones in it. They add TONS of flavor to a stew. If you don't yet know the joy of marrow, oh man. That's a whole other tangent, we're talking about stew here.
So, ideally you'd want to use some sort of heavy cast iron or enamel dutch oven style action to make this dish in. It will make it better in the long run, but not everyone has one on hand. A stainless steel pot will work just fine, just stay away from anything non-stick. Cut up two strips of bacon in little chunks and cook, but don't brown them. Just get the fat to render a little bit.
While that is cooking, cut your beef shank into bite-sized chunks, and if you desire, trim off any wild chunks of excess fat (but that will be to the detriment of your end product). Brown the beef in the bacon fat with just a little bit of salt and pepper over it. Depending on the size of your pot, you might have to do this in batches. Once the beef is browned on the outside, remove it and the bacon chunks from the pot. Toss in diced onion and shallot, and let them soften (again, just a touch of S+P), and let the bottom of the pan get a little glaze-y. Once they're ready to go, toss in the big marrow-bones from your shank, and enough wine to de-glaze the bottom of the pot.
Once that gets simmering, toss in chopped parsnips, carrots, potatoes and celery. Reintroduce the beef and bacon at this step too. Depending on the kind of stew you prefer, you can add your carrots and potates later in the game, so they don't get totally sloppy. Now, add in enough beef stock and wine so that the meat and vegetables are almost covered, but you can still see everything, don't go overboard. There's no set amount to this, but you're basically doing a giant reduction, so you don't want the stew to be too wet; you'll end up with a wicked soup, but not exactly something as thick or hearty as a stew, so be careful. Bring the pot to a boil but only for a minute or two, crank that sucker down to as low as your oven will go, and just let it simmer and sit.
About halfway through your cook time, you should ladle out about a cup or two of liquid from the pot. Throw that in a sauce pan along with a little bit more wine. Dice up some garlic, and mushrooms. Throw a sprig of rosemary in there with half a tomato with the seeds removed. Get this little dude simmering and reducing down, and you'll have an intense, bright, sunny and non-starchy thickening agent on your hands. Reduce this into a thick sauce, take the rosemary sprig out, and throw it back into the stew...the mushrooms will be intensely flavored and really stand out in the stew.
Now, 3-6 hours later, you should have some bangin' stew. Pair it with some no-knead bread, some sharp cheddar cheese, the same wine that you put into the stew, and some bright, ripe, sliced oranges for desert, and you've got a meal that will make the last few months of winter here actually bearable. The only disappointment though (editor's note: this disappoints you?), is that this stew, like many soups and thick concoctions will taste about a billion times better the next day. Unless you're feeding a family of 8, you'll have leftovers for sure."