Wednesday Food: Stew for the Soul!

There is nothing as satisfying as a hearty and delicious stew around this time of year.  It is piping hot and full of vitamins, which can help get your body back to normal after all of the holiday sweets and treats.  Up here in Maine, it can get pretty frigid.  And as my husband Eric (a native Maine-er) says, "a hearty stew puts meat on your bones, so you don't get destroyed by the cold".  Not only are they good for you and taste great, but make your kitchen and house smell delightful.

Stews are so easy to make, they just need time and patience to cook.  Start early, and then you will have the rest of the day to do fun things like: clean the house, reorganize your library, work out, start a project, or watch a movie.  Generally we like to cook our stews for at least 3 hours, or until the meat falls apart or the veggies are soft and squishy, (if it's meatless).

And why not start it all off with a classic Irish stew!  What makes it Irish, you might ask???  We put Guinness in this stew, along with the traditional parsnips, carrots, peas and beef.  Guinness makes a great addition to so many recipes, and this is no exception.  It brings out such a robust flavor and fills your soul with wintery warmth!

Guinness Beef Stew

about 1c. all purpose flour
1 T. fresh thyme
1t. paprika
dash of salt and pepper
1# stew beef (usually this is already cut up into chunks, if not cut them in even sized pieces)
1 16oz. can of Guinness
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
5 parsnips, chopped (we used alot of parsnips; but I LOVE parsnips, so use your judgement!)
1c. peas (frozen is easy!)

1) Start off by blending the flour, thyme, paprika, salt and the pepper in a medium sized bowl.  Toss the beef in the flour.  Put a little olive oil in a cast iron and heat to a medium high heat.  Place the beef chunks in the pan and brown.

2) When the beef is done, pour the Guinness in the pan to deglaze, and get all of the flavor released.  Just cook that on a low simmer, do NOT boil!  What you are doing is basically making a beef/Guinness stock.

3)Something we did, (but not everyone has to do) is taking your sliced onions and tossing them in the same flour mixture before sauteing.  Some may be worried about cross contamination but you will be cooking the crap out of this stew so there is no need to worry.  Tossing the beef and the onions in the flour will A) provide a nutty flavor to the stew and B) helps to thicken the stew.  So, take those sliced onions and saute them with the garlic in a stew pot!   As the onions cook down you can start adding the other veggies.  Cook them down for maybe 10-15 minutes.

4) Add the beef in with the veggies and cook for another 10 minutes or so.  Then add your beef/Guinness stock to the stew pot.  You may need to add alittle bit of water to make sure the veggies are all covered in the liquid.  At this point, put the stew on a low simmer and just let it cook for about 3-4 hours.  You'll know when its done when the veggies are soft or the beef is falling apart and easy to chew.

We also made a side dish, (more along the way of German/Austrian origin) - Sauteed/Steamed Red Cabbage.  As if we didn't have enough in our stew bowl we need alittle something else!  But this is a great addition to many hearty dishes!

Sauteed/Steamed Red Cabbage

1 head of red cabbage - take out the core, chop
salt and pepper
about 1 T. brown sugar
about 1/2c. red wine vinegar

1) Instructions are VERY simple.  Get your cast iron pan to a medium-high heat.  Toss the chopped cabbage along with the salt and pepper, brown sugar and red wine vinegar.  Place in the hot pan and let it cook down for a few minutes before you cover it to steam.  Cook till the cabbage has softened.  That's it!  You can make this right before your ready to serve the stew. 

And the end result is irresistibly good!  Happy Winter everyone!  Stay warm and remember.....

....when it gets too hot in the kitchen, get back in there and keep cooking!


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