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).

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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.

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!)

Kristen’s Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage and Pears

 

Kristen's Butternut Squash Soup 2

Let me tell a little story about a rainy Saturday in Martinsburg, West Virginia. One chilly fall morning, when I still lived in Baltimore, I visited my good friend and incredible cook, Kristen, way the heck out in Martinsburg, Wild Wonderful West Virginia. It was an icky morning: cold and wet and not the best driving weather. But I knew, as I left I-81 at the Martinsburg exit, that it would all be worth it, because one of Kristen’s gourmet wonders would await me (which I already knew because when she invited me over I asked her to make me lunch too–subtle, I know). 

 

Weighing Butternut SquashWhen I got there, Kristen told me she had made butternut squash soup. What a perfect day for soup, I thought. I would love a nice, warm bowl of sweet, nutmeg-spiced goodness! Oh, but I was completely caught off guard! Now, I had made butternut squash soup maybe a half dozen times before, and I thought I knew what to expect. But OH NO, this was no ordinary bowl of soup…this soup had texture! it had fruitiness! it had sausage!!

 

Butternut Squash Soup 1

This butternut squash soup is by far the best I have ever had, and I make it every year as soon as I can get my hands on the first squash. Glenn brought the first one home from the farm the other day and it was absolutely beautiful: sweet smelling, orange as a pumpkin, and big, weighing in at 4 pounds, 11 ounces. Perfection. Because the squash takes so long to roast through, I usually roast it the night before, put it in the fridge, and remove it from the skin the next day. Not only are you not still waiting to eat at 10:30 at night, but by the time you cut up the squash, it’s nice and cool and comes out of the skin easily.

When Kristen served me this soup, she used a hot Italian sausage. I just happened to have some turkey and spinach sausage in the freezer, so I used that, and it was great. Also, she made her soup with apples. But we still had some pears left over from my brother-in-law’s tree, and they were fabulous. 

 

Sage Leaves

 

What else goes great with butternut squash? Sage. Sage and butternut are an absolutely perfect pair, and I finally got to use some of the sage leaves from my own garden–holes and all–that I started from seed last spring.

Anyway, back to West Virginia, which, by the way, might be my favorite state in this whole country. Why? First, it exists because it was not afraid to go its own way during the Civil War–what other state can you think of that formed out of another state because it didn’t like the way the first state was handling things? Nope, I can’t think of one either. Secondly, it is beautiful and kind of mysterious looking. The Blue Ridge Mountains are not only nice to look at, but let’s face it, they’re kind of creepy looking too. I mean, they really are blue and foggy and, can you say Blair Witch? Next, I love the song Almost Heaven, West Virginia, by John Denver. And finally, my uncle tells me there might be a small possibility that my ancestors sewed up John Brown’s pants. I don’t know exactly how he knows that, but I’m going with it.

That day at Kristen’s ended up to be so nice. It stopped raining after lunch, and she and I went to buy apples and pumpkins at a local farm. We ended the afternoon with dessert at a local soda-fountain–yes, a real one, still operating in downtown Martinsburg. What a great day! But the best part of the day was that I stole this recipe and now it is mine mine mine!!

Enjoy! And thanks Kristen!

 

 

Kristen's Butternut Squash Soup plus toast

Kristen’s Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage and Pears

Makes enough for 4-6 people (or 3 regular people plus one Glenn)

4-5 lb butternut squash

6 Tablespoons butter

2 yellow onions, diced finely

8 fresh sage leaves, chopped

6 cups fresh chicken stock

1 cup apple cider (optional)

salt and pepper

though Kristen’s original recipe didn’t call for it, I added about a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Let’s call that optional.

3 links sausage (I used turkey spinach sausage)

1 pear sliced (Kristen’s original recipe calls for apples, but I had a pear. Whatever floats your boat!)

 

Preheat the oven to 400. Wash and thoroughly pierce the squash with a fork. Place in a large baking pan and roast until tender (could take 1-2 hours). While the squash cools, saute all but 1/4 cup of onions in the butter; add the sage; slice open, remove the seeds from the squash, and add the flesh to the sauteed onions. Add the chicken stock and nutmeg and simmer for 45 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or cool slightly and process batches in a standing blender (serioulsly, folks, blend it in small batches…I made the mistake of putting too much in at once and, well, we don’t like to talk about what happened–it’s to painful to relive). Add apple cider and salt and pepper to taste.

Brown sausage, add pear or apple and remaining onions and cook until soft. Use as a garnish.