I picked up a package of stew meat on Thursday thinking that I would put together a quick stew for my husband before my class on Pate Choux. That didn’t work out since my daughter had already planned to make potato soup for her sweetie and was consuming the real estate in the kitchen. (Excuses, excuses.) I went back into my office and got back to work, letting my husband fend for himself that night.
Not wanting time to completely get away from me, I decided to make stew last night. Employing many of the techniques that Julia Child used in preparing her Boeuf Bourguignon, I set out to streamline a pot of beef stew so that I could get dinner on the table in less than two hours. TWO HOURS???? Who has two hours?
Calm yourself down! Most of the two hours was time I spent drinking wine, surfing between HGTV and The Food Network, and piddling, stirring and, oh yeah, making a batch of dinner rolls. Don’t hate me because I can cook.
I was too lazy to make another stop at the store for mushrooms and knew that I had some dried porcini and shittakes in my pantry (invariably when I am typing the word ‘pantry’, I leave out the r and have to go back and retype – just thinking out loud) so I re-hydrated them and viola! From my Minestrone on Sunday, I had 1/2 of a can of tomato paste, carrots from class on Wednesday, and always in stock a selection of soup/sauce bases to ‘beef up’ flavors. So, like a good home economist, I was utilizing what was on hand.
While at the store on Thursday, I did pick up a few potatoes and my thought was to simmer them in the stew. Inspiration hit me and I decided to make rich mashed potatoes and plate up the dish in my large white bowls with the potatoes an island in the center. This way, bites of creamy potatoes could be forked or spooned with every bite of the savory sauce that surrounded the meat and veggies in my stew.
Beef Stew with Mashed Potatoes
- 1 1/4 pounds lean beef stew meat, cut into bite sized pieces
- 2-3 Tbls olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/4 cup (or about 1/2 of a small can) tomato paste
- 4 oz dry red wine
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 oz dried mushrooms
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 Tbls beef soup base (Better than Bouillon or Minors)
- large pinch dried rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 carrots, trimmed and cut into chunks
- 1 cup or more frozen limas
- minced fresh parsley or chives
- 3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and chunked
- 1 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 2 Tbls butter
- 1/4 cup sour cream, heavy cream or milk
Begin by heating 2 Tbls of olive oil in a 3 quart dutch oven or heavy saucepan. Pat the meat dry with either paper towels or a clean, lint free kitchen towel. Salt and pepper the meat lightly. In three or four batches, brown the beef pieces over relatively high heat. I used the lid of the pan, sitting ajar on top to sheild me and my kitchen from all the spattering that was inevitable, but don’t cover the pan. Remove the meat to a plate or bowl nearby and continue the searing process until you have browned all the meat.
Add the onion and reduce the heat, stirring for a few minutes to soften it. Add the celery and cover the pan for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the boiling water over the dried mushroom and allow to soften. Add the beef base to the mushrooms.
Once the onion and celery are softened, return the meat to the pan. Add the flour and stir for 3-4 minutes to brown the flour, then add the tomato paste and continue stirring to brown the tomato paste. Stir, stir, stir. Add the wine and allow it to nearly evaporate (al sec); mixture will be really thick. Add the mushrooms and soaking liquid and bring to a simmer. If the sauce is too thick, add enough water to keep the consistency of a light cream. Too thick and the stew will stick and scorch. Cover and simmer slowly for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and cook for about 15 minutes. Add lima beans and continue cooking until the limas are tender, about 10 minutes. Taste the stew for additional seasoning and remove the bay leaves. Serve over the mashed potatoes and garnish with the fresh herbs.
To make the potatoes, cover the peeled and chunked potatoes with cold water and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook at a gentle simmer for about 20-30 minutes until a fork piercing the largest potato chunk breaks the potato apart. Drain thoroughly and add the butter and cream to the pan. Cover to allow the butter to melt, then mash with a potato masher until creamy. You may need to add additional cream, salt and pepper to get the seasoning and texture right.