Monday, March 14, 2011

I Cook Food: Beef Stew

I have maybe three basic beef stews that I make variants of. I use the word maybe as they cross-pollinate each other. This is a Beef Stew With Wine as opposed to Beef With Onions or Spicy Beef Stew.

Beef Stew With Wine

750g stewing beef, cubed
2 onions, sliced or roughly chopped
12 small mushrooms
2 carrots, peeled and cut into circles
half a stalk of celery, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and cur into bits
4 tablespoons flour
olive oil
4 dessert spoons soy sauce
half a bottle of decent but not too nice red wine[1]

Serves 6-8

Turn on the oven to low, perhaps 120C. In a large casserole dish, pour two or three tablespoons of oil and heat. Add in the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally. While these are cooking, season the flour, then coat the beef in the flour. Keep any leftover flour in case you want to thicken the stew later.

When the vegetables are starting to brown, add the mushrooms and cook until everything is starting to brown. Transfer the vegetables to a dish to keep warm, add a little more oil to the casserole then put the beef in. I usually do two batches. Brown off the meat, then add everything back into the casserole, add the wine and bring to the boil for a couple of minutes. Stir and put in the oven.

It cooks for usually at least two hours, After an hour have a look, stir, add the soy sauce and, if it's thickening too much so it might burn add a little water. Keep doing this until the meat is tender.

As with many meat-cooked-in-wine dishes, this will actually get better if you cook it, leave it overnight and reheat. This makes it good for guests who have uncertain arrival times.

A Moment of Science

Alcohol has a lower vapour point than water, so when you bring something with alcoholic content in to the boil, the alcohol evaporates from it. I note this for those who are nervous of cooking with booze - if you've let it boil for a few minutes, it's not alcoholic any more and can be safely served to drivers, small children, lightweights and teetotallers without getting them drunk.

[1] The rule is, if you won't drink it, don't cook with it. Since I am perfectly happy to swill most of the fermented grape juice I've come across, this is pretty easy. Nevertheless, the subtleties of finer vintages disappear in cooking, so cooking with expensive wine is wasteful.
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