Country Beef Stew (with fresh bread)


Sometimes I have a really hard time finding something to make for Sunday dinner. Yesterday was one of those days, I had visions of beef slow cooking on the oven while I watched the Olympics ... but I wasn't really finding anything that fit my fancy. I thought about switching to fish... but was equally stumped. I even pulled several cookbooks from the shelves. It was in the last cookbook that I found what I was looking for... Beef Stew.

But, this beef stew is not like others. The little blurb in the Downton Abbey cookbook is what sold me: "Mrs. Patamore would be well aware of the rejuvenating effects of a solid meal, and would likely have made this filling stew for the staff during a particularly busy week... Mrs. Patamore would offer this dish as a way to soothe the servants' tired souls and feet" As a family we love beef stew which has been previously documented in this slow cooker recipe. And while the ingredients overlap in several cases, the outcome here is very different but no less great. Even though I'm the only person who added the spices to the pot, I had to stop and think about the difference when I took my first bite.

I'm not sure that Sunday meals are the best time to use 3-4 pots and pans. Sunday evenings are for watching Downton Abbey and the Olympics ... not bent over a sudsy sink. In this case, all the pots got dirty for a great cause ... but it is something to keep in mind:
- big pot for boiling potatoes
- big pot for the stew
- skillet for the turnips
- saucepan for the gravy
As preparation for this meal, I made a loaf of homemade bread in the morning. While I had made this recipe before, I actually followed the full directions and used a dutch oven for the baking process. The dutch oven provides this moist steamy environment for the dough to rise and bake (I'm guessing). I was fully prepared for disaster when I pulled back the lid but was pleasantly surprised by the crusty exterior. Another win on the books.

Here's how it all goes.

Country Beef Stew
(Step 1) Brown meat in hot skillet with a bit of oil

(Step 2) Boil both types of potatoes and then set aside
(Step 3) In a large pot, brown 2 pieces of diced bacon. Then add the browned meat, beef broth, water, Worcestershire sauce, onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt, both sugars, pepper, lemon juice, and all the spices. Cover and simmer for about 90 minutes.

(Step 4) Remove bay leaves and garlic cloves. Add carrots, celery, and cooked potatoes. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Remove about 2 cups of hot liquid to thicken gravy.
(Step 5) Set the "gravy" liquid in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it reduces. The amount it reduces is up to you. In hindsight, I wish my beef stew was a little bit soup-ier so I would not reduce this by more than 25-50% ... if at all.
(Step 6) In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of water with the cornstarch until well blended. Then add to the gravy mixture. Mix this back into the pot.
(Step 7) In a skillet, melt butter and then saute the turnips until crusty and brown.


(Step 8) Serve the beef stew with the crispy turnips on top!


Making the Bread
Follow the recipe that I wrote up before ... but then do this.
(Step 1) After the dough rises overnight, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead into that lovely dough ball we all love.
(Step 2) While the dough rests a final time, preheat the oven to 450F and put the dutch oven inside to warm up.
(Step 3) After a half hour, gently turn the dough into the dutch oven, cover, and put in the oven. I put my dough on a piece of parchment to prevent sticking.
(Step 4) Cook for 30 minutes covered then remove the cover.... and let the crusty exterior get perfectly toasty brown.
(Step 5) DONE!

Shopping List
2 lbs stew beef cut into 3/4 inch cubes
olive oil
1/2 lb red potatoes
1/2 small boiling potatoes
1 cup beef broth
1 cup water
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 yellow onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
2 bay leaves
1 t kosher salt
1 t white sugar
2 t brown sugar
1/4 t ground pepper
1 t lemon juice
1 t marjoram
1 t cayenne pepper
1/2 cinnamon
1/2 nutmeg
3 large carrots, sliced
3 ribs of celery, chopped
3 T butter
1 medium turnip, peeled and sliced
2 T cornstarch

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