Sunday, February 22, 2009

Italian Beef Stew with Salsa Verde

In light of things being crazy lately, I haven't spent much time at all cooking or going out and buying expensive ingredients. I've been scared into sitting at home and having frugal salads and noodles... well almost. Last week we were in Portland and had our ritualistic brewpub tour, that sort of made my belly feel all icky and the feeling has lasted till now. So basically I'm feeling both very mentally strained (just from the news, work and life in general) and physically unfit (from too much beer!). Which is just as well, since Oregon might be raising their beer taxes to $0.15 a pint.

I decided tonight that we were going to have the farcical Academy Awards on in the background and cuddle with a good bowl of beef stew, embracing the last days of winter. I can't bloody wait for the dreariness to be over and usher in spring with some darn good asparagus! My predictions for tonight: Everything that everyone predicted will win will win. It's the Academy Awards, it's all about predictability, studio money and bad hairstyles.

This is a recipe I am very proud of, which I perfected off a general Italian beef stew recipe. It's one the best beef stews (in my opinion) that you will ever have and topped with Italian Salsa Verde - which differs from the more famous Mexican one in that it has no tomatillos or jalapenos - is a wonderful meal to have when the outside world is all troubled and all you want is to find a little comfort in the food you eat.

Italian Beef Stew
Serves 4

1 lb beef chuck or stewing beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped into 1 inch portions
3 ribs celery, roughly chopped into 1 inch portions
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 new potatoes, whole or 4 medium sized potatoes, quartered
1 can (14.5oz) organic, low-sodium diced tomatoes
4 cups low sodium beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Olive oil

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or stainless steel soup pot. Brown the beef evenly, about 4 minutes on each side.

Add in the onions, carrots and celery into pot and saute the aromatics until fragrant, about 7 minutes - the onions should be translucent.

Turn up the heat and add in the garlic and canned tomatoes. Stir for 2 -3 minutes and add in the beef stock, red wine and herbs. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for an hour.

Add in the potatoes and simmer for an additional hour until the beef and potatoes are tender and the soup has thickened into a stew-like consistency. For a tastier stew, let the cooled stew sit overnight in the fridge. Reheat the stew the next day and serve over crusty bread and topped with a dollop of the salsa verde.

Italian Salsa
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 medium shallot, minced finely
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
Pinch of salt

Combine the parsley, garlic and shallots in a bowl. Add in the vinegar, capers, red chili flakes and salt and stir gently to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil and let salsa verde steep for 1/2 an hour at room temperature.