There’s something therapeutic about a good braise–something soul-soothing about chunks of meat that soak up the flavor of everything nearby and stew until they’ve just about turned to mush. It’s alchemy. You can manipulate the ingredients and manipulate your sear and the temperature, but time and the laws of nature are far more the chef than you.
I made beef stew over the weekend and I needed something simple and soul-soothing–something to help me slip into an A-grade food food coma. Becuase sometimes you just need to let go a little.
This is a fairly “stock” braise recipe, but with a few unique flairs. I love the combination of star anise and/or cinnamon with beef and tomato. The sweet licorice spice and tangy tomato balance the beef so well. Taiwanese beef noodle soup is one of my favorite dishes. For the red wine, I used Prince Michel Cabernet Franc. It’s light-bodied, fruit-forward, and has a ridiculously long vanilla finish that plays off the anise nicely. It’s local too. I served it with homemade demi-baguettes and used this formula, scaled down. We’ll probably serve the leftovers with Chinese wheat noodle.
What quintessential comfort foods get your food coma on?
Aroma Therapy Beef Stew
3.5 lbs. beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 oz. (or 1 1/2 cups OR 2 glasses) light-bodied red wine.
1 cup broth or stock
1 cup tomato sauce (I used homemade)*
2 onions cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 carrots cut into 3/4-inch chunks
3 celery stalks cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Season the beef all over with salt and pepper (I use about a half-teaspoon per pound) and let rest for about half an hour to an hour.
Heat a Dutch oven to medium-high. Add olive oil to coat the bottom and sear the beef in several batches. Remove from the Dutch oven and reserve.
Add more oil if necessary and sear the vegetables with a pinch of salt for five to ten minutes or until browned. Deglaze the pan with the wine and reduce until the alcoholic smell has cooked off. Add the broth, tomato sauce, reserved beef, herbs, and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and then cover.
Simmer for 2 1/2 to three hours or until desired tenderness is achieved, stirring occasionally. Simmer uncovered for ten to twenty minutes at the end of the cooking time to thicken, if desired.
Serve with rice or bread.
*Homemade Tomato Sauce:
2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes in puree
About 6 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Add just enough of the oil to a skillet to coat the bottom and heat to medium/medium high. Add the crushed whole garlic cloves and toast, stirring occasionally until they are a light nutty brown, but not burnt (burnt garlic should be discarded immediately).
Crush the whole tomatoes and add to the skillet with the tomato puree. Bring to a boil and add the remainder of the olive oil. Cook until reduced. The sauce will have reduced, sweetened, and have a glossy appearance. Season with salt and pepper to taste.