So, now that I have my own food blog, I can participate in tons of online food blogging events. Shaun of Winter Skies Kitchen Aglow is hosting this week's Weekend Cookbook Challenge. He has chosen STEW as the theme. Sara of I Like to Cook is the creater of this challenge and designates a different food blogger each week to host the event and select the theme.
As soon as i read the that the theme would be stews, I knew exactly what i wanted to cook. There is an interesting recipe for Crosscut Stump Stew in I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris. Actually, the stew looks like any other good and hearty beef stew. What drew me to it however was how she wrote about it in her book. Amy is a comedian and she separated the chapters of her book in a quite unique way. Since the book is about entertaining, each chapter is for a target audience of people you would have a party for. This stew is featured in her lumberjack section. Yes, you read correctly. There is a chapter in the book dedicated to having a party for lumberjacks. In addition to recipes, she suggests party favors and decoration ideas. Her featured stain removal tip in the lumberjack chapter is for mud:
Make sure that the mud stain on the rug has dried. Vacuum the dirt off. Take some laundry soap and work it into the stain. This should work. If not just turn the rug over and deny it ever happened.
The stew recipe is pretty basic. As I prepared my shopping list, I realised I have never made a simple stew before. I have not made that many stews before period. But the ones I have prepared have been made something with gourmet-type ingredients. Also, I have only made stews in my slower cooker and never made one stove-top or in the oven. I was excited to try this one and get a good basic stew under my belt.
I'm not sure if I like Amy's recipe style. She is not very exact. I am one who prefers to follow recipes exactly and I want to know the minimum amount of each ingredient to add to the dish. If a recipe adds a "to taste" I am fine, but i don't like how her recipe just calls for "sugar" with no specific amount. I had never cooked a stew like this before and was unsure of how sugar will effect the taste. However, I can go with the flow and just figured it out. I suppose this is why many chefs suggest you taste at each step.
Amy suggests serving the stew with a stack of white bread and oatmeal raisin cookies.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown your cubed beef on all sides in a pan of hot oil and then transfer to a casserole dish. Add onion and garlic to the pan. Add more oil or butter if you need to, fry until the onion is soft. Add tomato puree, wine, and vinegar and stir. Pour this over the meat cubes in the casserole dish, and add the bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, sugar and salt and pepper.
Cover and cook in over for 1 hour, or cook on stove, slowly. While beef is cooking, boil a pan of water. Remove roots and tops of pearl onions. Crosscut (score) the root end and place in a bowl. Cover in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain off water. The skins will slip off easily. Add the onions to stew and continue to simmer on low until the meat and onions are tender and the sauce is thick. (About 1 1/2 hours longer).