Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

Beef and Root Vegetables Stew (Finished)Way at the top of the list of beef stew sins are: a) taking your stew out of the oven too early thereby ending up with beef that is tough and hard to chew, and b) making a broth that is too watery. This stew takes those two sins and whips them in the arse.

How does it do that? Well, first of all, it has a 1/2 bottle of wine in it. The wine gives the broth a wonderfully deep, rich taste and–though I haven’t conducted any sceintific experiments–I think the acidity of the wine helps to break down the beef fibers to make it oh-so-tender.

 

Beef and Root Vegetables Stew

 

 

I adapted this recipe from Jamie Oliver, who says that he tried to make this stew like any other beef stew or boeuf bourguignon recipe, where you first brown the meat, then add the vegetables. But, he said this particular stew came out better without browning the meat at all and just adding the vegetables at the same time. That’s great news for us, because it’s that much easier to make!

 

 

 

 

Beef and Root Vegetables Stew 2

While Jamie’s recipe called for parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes, I used what I had from the farm–turnips instead of parsnips–and I nixed the Jerusalem artichokes because they are just so freakin’ expensive. One note: I do not peel my root vegetables. I just don’t think it’s necessary when you’re using organically-grown veggies. Besides, how many people have eaten potato skins before? The skin of the carrot or the turnip is the same thing, right? Just wash ’em up real good! Besides, I don’t think a little dirt will hurt you. It’s called terroir–when the food takes on the flavor of the place it was grown. Yeah, this generally refers to wine…but I think it could be true with carrots too.

 

 

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (wine)

Remember, you’re going to be adding a 1/2 bottle of wine to this. I admit, it is hard for me to pour a 1/2 bottle of wine into the pot, thinking about putting it to better use (by actually drinking it), but it is well worth it. I usually choose a wine that I would normally drink anyway (do NOT buy a bottle that you wouldn’t normally drink…it will taste in the stew like it tastes in the glass, so you’ll want to buy something you like. And don’t–under any circumstances–buy cooking wine. It will taste terrible). I really like this line of wines called “Just.” You can find them at Whole Foods and they are under $10.00. They are great for cooking with or for your regular weekday wine intake, when you don’t need anything too fancy, but you also don’t want to drink something icky. Half goes in the stew, and half goes in my tummy while I cook! It’s already a party and I haven’t even eaten anything yet!

 

 

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (finished on stove)

This stew cooks for a while in the oven (3-4 hours). Don’t take it out a moment sooner than that! You want the beef to be nice and tender and to fall apart under your fork. By all means, test it first. I will tell you, the smell of this stew in your kitchen (and throughout your house) is a wonderful, comforting, warm smell, and it is totally worth the wait.

When you take the stew out of the oven, just before serving, add the garlic/rosemary/lemon mixture. It is so fragrant and adds a phenomenal touch to the stew. Don’t skip it! By the way, I made some cornbread to go with this, and it made for great dipping.

As you can see by the picture below, my dog Jack was all-too-happy with this recipe. I shared a little with him, but saved most of it for leftovers. It made for a great weeknight dinner the second time around.

 

 

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Jool’s Favourite Beef Stew)Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (Jack Sniffing)

olive oil

Tablespoon of butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped

a handful of fresh sage leaves

¾lb beef stew meat

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

flour, to dust

4 small turnips, quartered*

4 carrots, halved

½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced

1lb small potatoes (I used Yukon Golds)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ a bottle of red wine

½ pint beef stock

zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

a handful of rosemary, leaves picked

1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Put a Tablespoon of oil and a Tablespoon of butter into an oven-safe dutch oven.

Add the onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes.

Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together.

Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to a boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 225°F and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew before eating. Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference.

 
*I do not peel my root vegetables. I use organic vegetables, so there are no pesticides to worry about. I make sure I clean the dirt off as well as I can. Other than that, a little clean dirt will never hurt anyone. I would argue it adds a little local flavor (er, maybe).

Roasted Chicken Breast with Creamy Butternut Squash and Chilies

Jaime Oliver_Chicken and Butternut and Jools favorite stew, butternut

When I make dishes that are really good and really easy, I wish I could go back in time and tell my 25-year-old self that there’s no need to overdo it. I’m specifically referring to the time I invited my family over to my Baltimore loft for Christmas dinner and went perfectly mad when I tried to cook about 8 dishes for my little dinner party of 5. It was a rookie mistake, and I learned my lesson that night with a little help from my husband, who rescued me despite the fact that I had been cooking all Christmas day and had barely spoken to him.

 

Jaime Oliver_Chicken and Butternut and Jools favorite stew, chickenIt was a bad scene folks. I think I got every single recipe for that dinner from Martha Stewart (whose recipes I generally like, but they can be just a tad complicated). And I didn’t begin cooking until that morning. I think I made three different kinds of cookies (sugar, gingerbread, and peanut butter blossom), several ridiculously intricate side dishes that included things like homemade breaded and fried onions (because what would Martha say if you didn’t make your own!?), and sweet potato casserole, which I had never made before (I don’t think I had ever roasted a sweet potato in my life). Five minutes before my family was to arrive, and realizing my dining room did NOT look like the cover of Martha Stewart Living, I completely lost it.

 

Jaime Oliver_Chicken and Butternut and Jools favorite stew, before cookingAs my little homemade onions, which were to go on my undercooked green bean casserole (with homemade lumpy mushroom sauce!) burned and I started to cry, Glenn (who had not yet married and me and probably was beginning to have second thoughts about it) came to the rescue. “Do you really need the onions?” He said calmly. “YES!” I whined. “Kelsey,” he asked again, slowly, “Do. You. Need. The. Onions?” (Anti-Martha Stewart!) “No,” I said, sadly, but knowing they couldn’t–they wouldn’t–be spared. He threw their sorry charred selves in the trash. “Do you really need the maple glaze for the turkey?” He asked, pointing to the not-yet-in-the-saucepan maple syrup and glancing at the 30-45 minute cooking instructions. Sensing that this was a rhetorical question, I answered the most defeated “No” I could muster. I watched him put the maple syrup back in the cabinet as the little Martha Stewart on my shoulder shuddered and let out an audible “humph!”

Granted, my mom had made perfect Thanksgiving turkey for decades with no fancy maple glaze. But I thought I could do it better. Well, thank goodness for my kind family and soon-to-be husband. They didn’t say a word about it (though Glenn does like to tease me about it to this day). Gloppy mushroom sauce, stringy sweet potato casserole, overcooked turkey, and an exhausted me. (I will say that the gingerbread cookies were AWEsome.)

Jaime Oliver_Chicken and Butternut and Jools favorite stew

Unlike that hot mess, this is a perfect weeknight meal. It’s quick, it’s easy, and there’s not much to clean up.

The butternut squash, with the addition of the cream, becomes tender and, well, creamy. The seasonings on the chicken are light and tasty, and leaving the skin on means the chicken comes out moist.

And the best part is that your partner will not have to rescue you.

 

 

 

Roasted Chicken Breast with Creamy Butternut Squash and Chilies (adapted slightly from Jamie Oliver’s recipe)

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts (bone in, skin on)

2 red chilies (I used jalapeño)

3 or 4 sage leaves, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

3/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg (or however much you like)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Put chicken breasts in a bowl. Deseed and slice chilies and add them to the bowl with a few sprigs of chopped, fresh sage. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss together and set aside.

Carefully slice a medium butternut squash into quarters. Remove the seeds and slice 2 quarters of the squash as thinly as possible (I didn’t use all of the second quarter. Just use what will fit in your baking dish).

Place each chicken breast and flavorings snugly in an aluminum foil “bowl” sitting in a medium baking dish. Place the squash slices around the chicken breasts snugly.

Pour the cream around the squash slices (not on the chicken). Season with grated nutmeg, sea salt, and pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the center of the oven for 35-40minutes.

White Bean Chili with Chicken and Collard Greens

Paula Deen's White Bean Chili with Collard Greens2Dead southwesterners everywhere are rolling over in their graves because Paula Deen has added collard greens to their chili. Yes, I’ve done it again, I’ve gone to Paula Deen for another recipe. And you know what? It is the best white bean chili I have ever had. EVER. This is a very bold statment for me to make, especially since I don’t love collard greens as much as other greens. I’m not a huge fan of the traditional preparation of collard greens–which is to cook them to death with some ham hock. But this…THIS…I could eat once a week. It was absolutely delicious. And I think it could easily be made vegetarian–just add some more beans, take away the chicken, and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. And would you believe this Paula Deen recipe does not have even a teaspoon of butter? No, y’all, it does not. 

 

Collard Greens in Salad Spinner

It has been chilly and rainy in Birmingham for the past, hmmmm…month? This soup was perfect for a chilly, rainy night, and I’m actually going to make it again as soon as Glenn brings home more collards. I decided to alter Paula’s recipe just a smidge and, instead of chopping the chicken up beforehand, I let it simmer longer in the broth whole and allowed it to break up itself. I’m sure if you don’t have time to spare, you could chop it up first. But letting it simmer for a whole hour really does make the chicken super tender and allows the flavors to marry longer. Aw, I love it when flavors marry, don’t you? It’s sweet.

Collards cooking

Another thing to mention about this dish: an acquaintance of Glenn’s brought us some fresh New Mexico green chilies she picked up while she was out there visiting (these are the benefits of being a farmer–people trade you great stuff for your produce). Though Glenn and I use green chilies in a lot of cooking (and we must, of course, use the canned variety), the flavor of fresh chilies is superior (the canned variety can taste slightly “tinny”), and the ones we used for this recipe were very very hot.

 

 

 

Chicken, Collards and Green Chilies

Though I didn’t have any time to make cornbread with this, I highly recommend doing so. I would have loved to dip some cornbread in this chili to sop it up and take off some of the heat. If you don’t like your chili too hot, just don’t add as many crushed red pepper flakes and use mild green chilies instead of hot.

The next day, instead of eating this as regular soup, I broke out the tortilla chips, which we used to scoop up the leftovers. Overnight, the soup became much drier than it was first day I made it, so it was totally scoopable. Delicious!

If you have never tried collard greens before, or if you’re like me and think of them only boiled down to a pulp with ham hock, please please please try this recipe. Paula Deen, I curtsy to your goodness.

 

  

Paula Deen's White Bean Chili with Collard Greens3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adapted (ever so slightly) from Paula Deen’s White-Bean Chili 

Makes 4 good-sized bowls (or one bowl for me and three for Glenn)

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

3/4 cup diced onion (I used a Vadalia, just to be extra southern-like)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 halves, that is, about 3/4 of a pound), seasoned with sea salt and fresh black pepper

1  Tablespoon ground cumin

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (I did not have any white pepper on hand, so I substituted black pepper, but I’m leaving this as Paula Deen originally intended, because I’ll bet it’s tasty)

Pinch of red pepper flakes (oops, I added a couple pinches and, yes, it was dang hot)

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound collard greens, stemmed and roughly chopped (about 5 cups)

1 1/2 cups chopped green chilies. I happened to have fresh/frozen ones on hand that a friend of Glenn’s brought to him from New Mexico. Use ’em if you got ’em. Otherwise, canned would be fine.

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

2 15-oz cans navy beans, undrained

Optional garnishes: 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, light sour cream, chopped tomatoes, lime wedges

 

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the garlic and onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the chicken, cumin, oregano, white pepper, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and 1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the chicken is slightly browned on both sides, 3-4 minutes.

Add the collard greens and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the chilies and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium low, cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 1 hour. As soon as the chicken was cooked through (after about 15 minutes), I helped it along by breaking it up a little bit in the pot. After a while, it will begin to get very tender. If I had time, I probably would have let it simmer for another 1/2 hour to get it even more tender. Stir in the beans in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Garnish and serve.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed sweet potatoes, side viewThis has been one busy week. On top of regular work projects that needed attention and various urgent home repairs, I had to complete an 8,000 word essay for the journal Food and Foodways. I submitted a proposal last spring to write an essay on the Birmingham Public Library Archives collection of interviews of the people of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and it was accepted. You may have heard of Gee’s Bend’s Quilts; they have become nationally and internationally famous, touring around the country and inspiring books, plays, and museum exhibitions. But my interest in Gee’s Bend has to do with food. The Archives happens to have about 30 interviews of “Gee’s Benders” from the late 70s and early 80s; and Gee’s Benders talk to their interviewer about growing up this isolated part of Alabama in the early to mid-twentieth century. Though they talk about quilts, politics, and religion, one of their favorite subjects is traditional soul food: collard greens, black eyed peas, cornbread, pork, and of course, sweet potatoes.

Whole Sweet TatersThough I had an entire summer to write this article, I did not actually begin writing until about a month ago when my other work at the Library seemed to settle down a bit. But of course, things never settle down like you think they will, and this final week of writing was filled with early mornings, long days, and late evenings. Then, in the middle of the week, when I didn’t have a moment to think about cooking, Glenn brought home the first of this season’s sweet potatoes. I got home from work on Wednesday night, tired and cranky, and saw them sitting on the counter, just another thing needing my attention. I thought about looking up a recipe or two, wondering what fancy schmancy thing I could do with them, but I just couldn’t do it. I was exhausted. 

So, I did the absolutely simplest thing I Sweet potato, split side viewcould do: I washed them, poked them with a fork, and threw them in the oven to roast for about an hour while I watched House Hunters…er, I mean CSPAN. When they were tender, I split them in half, scooped out the meat, and mashed them in a bowl with butter, brown sugar and sea salt. That’s it. That was dinner. Comfort food in a bowl. The people of Gee’s Bend didn’t mess with any butter, brown sugar, and sea salt, but I think they would have approved. To make a long week’s story short, I got my essay turned in on Friday, but with a little help from some mid-week soul food that absolutely lived up to its name.

 Sweet Potatoes, all mashed upMashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes (I used two big ones)

about 1/4 cup of brown sugar

about a 1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)

between 1/2 and a full teaspoon of sea salt

Wash (scrub if you’re scareda dirt) and poke holes in sweet potatoes (to let the steam escape). Roast them in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. My sweet potatoes were big and took a whole hour. DO NOT TAKE THEM OUT EARLY–they will be kind of tough and stringy and just no fun. I put mine in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mashed them with a potato masher, but feel free to use a mixer if you don’t like yours with some lumps. Because the size of sweet potatoes varies (don’t worry, size doesn’t matter, unlike what some people tell you), test the butter/sugar/salt ratio until you find something you like. I particularly love sea salt in this recipe. The coarseness of the salt granules means they don’t quite melt all the way, and a little salty grain is nice with such a sweet vegetable. If you’ve got it, I would recommend some pork ribs or collard greens with these (Gee’s Benders knew what they were doing).

Butternut Squash Bread

Butternut Squash bread baked

Do you know what I’m waiting for? Sure, I’m waiting for the stuff everyone else is waiting for: peace in the middle east, health care reform, cars that can fly, etc… But what I really really really can’t wait for is for someone to invent the replicator. You know, from Star Trek? Oh, how many times I have wanted to walk up to my replicator window and order up a cup of earl grey tea, hot, just like Patrick Stewart, and have it instantly! And the thing I imagine about the replicator is that whatever you order would be perfect. Your filet would be exactly medium rare, just like you want it. Your hot chocolate would be not-too-hot to drink and not-too-cool you have to throw it in the microwave. Your pizza would have the exact right amount of crispiness around the edges. And your butternut squash bread? Well, the replicator would bake it *all the way* and not take it out five minutes too soon like a mere human such as myself.

Butternut Squash Bread in the Mixer

What has stood between me and bread perfection time and time again? Impatience…about 5 minutes worth, to be exact. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken bread, cake, or cookies out of the oven too early. Sometimes it works in my favor–who doesn’t love an ooey gooey chocolate chip cookie or brownie? But with things like bread, you just have to be patient. Let the peak of the bread solidify before you take it out even when you think the edges look brown and ready (Kelsey!).

Other than that little problem, this bread was excellent. The cool thing about butternut squash is that it is practically indistinguishable from pumpkin, so you can substitute it for any recipe you have that calls for pumpkin. I used my mom’s extraordinarily simple and delicious pumpkin bread recipe.

Butternut Squash Bread Baking

This recipe is really no-nonsense: just mix everything up together, pour in the bread pan, and bake. Done. You can add raisins or cranberries, walnuts or pecans, coconut or chocolate chips. Eat it with a slab o’ cream cheese if you want to. Just, please, please, whatever you do…don’t take it out of the oven too early (Kelsey!).

Until my replicator is installed (you know, next to my holodeck and transporter), this will be one of my favorite recipes.

Butternut Squash bread Butternut Squash Bread

makes 2 loaves

3 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 to 1.5 pounds cooked butternut squash-pureed or at least mushed up really well.

2/3 cup water

3 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

I added about a cup of raisins

Beat all ingredients together. Grease pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (or until the peaks are solid–no jiggling!)