main st. stew.

My dutch oven calls to me almost every week - this black pot, beckoning to me to braise something. So, considering it is Sunday, the day of rest, I decided to do so. What better, easier meal to cook than a stew. After a busy day looking for apartments near Main St., and meandering through Ft. Langley, the last thing I wanted to do was a 5 part cooking extravaganza. So before we left to make the trek into Van, I threw a bunch of ingredients in the pot, set the oven to 250 F, and exited the house. I came back several hours later to a spicy, meaty smell pervading through the house, with the occasional sharp waft of sweet vinegar. My own (better) version of a Glade air freshener. 
Driving to the city,
random walking in Ft. Langley,
equals stew. 
Stew is, according to Wikipedia, the "combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy." It is one of the easiest meals, but one of the longest. But once its thrown in the oven, you can forget about it for several hours. 

The only problem is, if you set it overnight on a really low heat, you wake up wanting to eat hearty meat for breakfast (reminds me of when I was a kid, and would eat anything, including spaghetti . . .to break my nightly fast). 

The day after, the flavors have melded, become richer. this stew is served best the next day, though it rarely lasts that long. Just one caution - don't try to rush this recipe, the meat becomes chewy, unfortunate chunks in a lovely sauce.  But if done right, each is a taste of heaven, falling apart in your house. Chuck meat may be the cheapest, but I find it to be one of the most flavorful. I also like my stew a little more sweet, so I add an apple to bring just a little more depth to the sauce. They completely melt into the liquid. Time is a friend with this recipe, not something that needs to be carefully watched - a relief compared to some recipes where every minute counts. 

(One thing I would like to do when I live downtown is, almost every week, try a different stew from a different ethnic restaurant. One week, a Moroccan tangine, the next, Korean sundubu jjigae. Judging from the stew list on Wikipedia, I have a loooong way to go. But thats the fun of it.)  

Also, tangent, but there is a musician named stew. Won the Grammy in 2008 for, as the New York Times calls it, "an idiosyncratic, vibrant and semiautobiographical" musical. Interesting.  

Rich Beef Stew

1 lb. cubed chuck meat 
2 tbs. flour
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 c. carrots (chopped)
1 c. celery (chopped)
1 medium apple (chopped)
1/2 c. red wine
2 c. beef stock
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. worcestershire sauce
1 24 oz. can tin tomatoes (chopped)
1 8 oz. can tomato paste
2 tsp. oregano
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. thyme (3 fresh sprigs if you have them are better than dried)

1. Preheat the oven to 250 F. Lightly coat the beef in flour and sear in in the pot on the stove. Remove the meat, set aside and throw in onions, garlic, apple, half the carrots, and half the celery in the hot pot and cook until they are softened. Deglaze the pot with the stock and wine.

2. Add the meat back into the pot with all the seasonings, vinegar, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and worcestershire sauce and put in the oven.

3. After about 2 hours, stir the pot a few times. In another 4 hours, add the extra vegetables and let cook for another 1-2 hours, until softened to the consistency you like them. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with big chunks of bread, or even yorkshire pudding. Mmmmmmm. Enjoy.