Monday, October 29, 2012

Cold weather: Bring on the (healthier) Beef Stew

Beef stew doesn't have to be a no-no for the healthy foodie.
If you emphasize a pot full of delicious, hearty vegetables made even more scrumptious by a judicious amount of high-quality, grass-fed beef, you can enjoy this delightful comfort food without a shred of guilt.
While my family doesn't eat much red meat, for health reasons, a little meat in most diets is not a bad thing. Iron and other minerals are more plentiful in red meat than in any other food.

And while I'm totally against supermarket or fast-food meats for ethical reasons--see "Food, Inc" or read Michael Pollan and others if you don't already know about the horrors of our industrial food system and its treatment of animals--humanely raised and butchered meat is a treat the healthy foodie can allow herself once in a while.

In addition to the traditional beef-stew veggies, this version tastes even better thanks to the inclusion of flavorful porcini mushrooms and leeks.

Recipe: Healthier Beef Stew
(Serves 4)

  • 8 ounces stew beef in bite-size chunks
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 leeks, rinsed well, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lb new potatoes (red or white), cut into bite-size chunks
  • 3 large carrots, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks (optional)
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 15 minutes, drained and chopped
  • 2 T flour
  • Mushroom soaking liquid, strained to remove sand from mushrooms, about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef stock or beef broth
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 2 large bay leaves
1.     Heat oil in your largest saucepan or a Dutch oven over medium high heat. When oil begins to sizzle, add beef and cook, stirring, until beef begins to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate or bowl and keep nearby.
2.     Add leeks and garlic to pot, stirring for 1-2 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in remaining vegetables (potatoes through porcini mushrooms) and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables begin to heat up and start to cook, about 3-4 minutes.
3.     Sprinkle flour over the veggies, stir well, and cook for another 2 minutes.
4.     Return beef to the pot.
5.     Add liquids (mushroom soaking liquid, wine and stock/broth), stirring well.
6.     Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a low boil.
7.     Remove cover, reduce heat to medium and add thyme, salt, pepper and the bay leaves.
8.     Cook for another 30 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are your desired level of tenderness by testing with the point of a knife.
9.     Discard the bay leaves before serving.

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