AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Resilient Recipes: Beef Stew DATE: 2/02/2009 11:30:00 AM ----- BODY:
One of the biggest challenges in entertaining at home is timing everything. First, one must assume that the guests will arrive on time, and then as host, you need to create a time-line of when the meal must go in and out of the oven so that everything’s ready and hot at the same time. Yeah, right!

As I get away from professional cooking, and focus more on recreational cooking, my style of entertaining has evolved. After all these years of being in the kitchen for the party, I want to spend time with the guests. While the food is still important, I value other aspects of a dinner party – a relaxed and convivial atmosphere that encourages lively conversation. The food becomes the backdrop for the evening.

Part of my success, or so my friends tell me, is that I’m a calm hostess (I think it’s that I serve copious amounts of wine). I’m not anxious about the meal, nor am I racing around when the guests arrive trying to put the finishing touches on a recipe. Much of this is my professional training. But a lot has to do with the menu. I opt for resilient recipes – These could be dishes that don’t suffer from pre-cooking and last minute reheating. Or recipes that have a large window of “doneness” – think chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. Better yet, during the winter, I make stews that actually get better the longer they cook.

Such is the recommendation I offered my friend R who just got engaged. She’s hosting her parents and future in-laws for dinner – the first meeting for the two sets of parents. One can never predict how the evening will go… will the conversation be lively during the hors d’oeuvres and delay dinner? Will the silence be deafening and encourage an earlier start to the meal? For sure, let’s hope for the former. And with a stew gently staying warm in the oven, she can enjoy the company and know that the meal will be even better.

Beef Stew
(serves 4-6 guests)

2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
1/4 cup flour
3 slices smoked bacon
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 large shallot, peeled and chopped.
1 celery rib, chopped
1/4 lb. mushrooms, quartered
1 cup chicken broth
1 - 10 oz. can tomatoes
1/2 bottle red wine
1/2 cup brandy
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbs. plain oil.
salt and pepper to taste

1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Dust with flour. Dice bacon, and put in a large skillet with high sides. Brown bacon over high heat. Remove bacon and set aside

2. Add oil and beef, and brown beef (on high heat) for about 4 minutes on each side. Add onions, shallots, carrot, celery, and cook for about 5 minutes more.

3. Turn heat off, and deglaze pan with brandy and red wine. Scrap all of the browned bits off the bottom, this is good stuff. Add chicken stock, thyme and cumin. Turn heat back to high, and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover pot. Put in 325 oven. After about 1 1/2 hour, add mushrooms. Cook covered for another hour or until meat is tender.

4. Serve stew over egg noodles or with grilled bread.

If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you can omit the flour. Potatoes would make a great side dish as well.

Here are some other resilient recipes from Grow. Cook. Eat.
Vietnamese Crepes with Salmon and Radish Salad
End of the Season Cannellonis
Moroccan Style Chicken Stew

I'm submitting this recipe to Tried Tested and True 3: Wedding Edition in honor of Psychgrad's recent engagement (to another R).

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:2/02/2009 01:28:00 PM Yay! You submitted it. Good post. I'm going to have to keep resilience in mind for the family meal (both my own and the food).

How do I interpret the ingredients for mushrooms?

Shamefully, I still didn't make the rolls. I bought the ingredients (well...all minus the cream cheese that was on the list but got forgotten in the shuffle) and hope to get it done some time this week. This weekend was just too hectic. If you're anxious to post yours, go ahead. I'm still committed to making mine, I'm just having a hard time fitting everything in. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:2/03/2009 02:51:00 AM Yep those are great entertaining tips. A stew is perfect for that! And the meal is more enjoyable when there is no hostess stress. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:2/03/2009 06:54:00 AM Psychgrad -- it's 1/4 pound mushrooms. # is an abbreviation for pound I learned in culinary school. I wonder if an abbreviation professional culinarians use, or only graduates of the CCA?

Look forward to hearing about your rolls! I'll hold off on my post.

noble pig - Now if we could just make a tonic to remove hostess stress.... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Peter M DATE:2/04/2009 09:44:00 AM I like the deep brown colour of the stew and the cumin gives a nice kick too! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Grace DATE:2/04/2009 11:01:00 AM excellent stew, julia! and i firmly believe that a little wine can go a long way in easing tension and awkwards situations. :) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger melissa DATE:2/05/2009 07:10:00 PM I think it’s that I serve copious amounts of wine

Ha!

Your hosting tips are right on - I always try to make something for a crowd that can sit and simmer because I decided I actually wanted to enjoy my evening too. This time of year I am seeing a lot of beef stews and I have still not made my own. Don't know why not! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Julie B DATE:2/27/2009 09:55:00 AM Thanks for the date of when to plant inside. March 15th. Every year I miss it and end up buying seedlings. Now I have a deadline for getting seeds planted. My daughter was planting pea seeds this morning in old paper egg cartons which we use in place of peat pots. Ideally, we like to have peas in the ground by March 15 but that's hard to achieve in New England. Here's hoping for a great growing season! ----- --------