Beef Stew: The Little Black Dress of Dinner

beef stew

Beef stew is one of those chameleon dishes.  It’s homey enough for tonight, when the wind is whipping and the snow is falling and all I want to do is curl up on the couch and keep my toes toasty.  But it also works wonderfully for dinner parties, since it keeps very well warming on the stove, and looks awfully fancy in pretty bowls.  Kids love it, dogs love it, I love it.  It’s my little black dress in the kitchen, as it pretty much works for any occasion. 

And there are a million variations on the theme.  I’m a big fan of the classic Boeuf Bourguignon, of course.  And who can resist a hearty Irish stew, chock full of potatoes and served with a Guinness? I love to dress up beef stew occasionally with smokey chipotle chilis and a pinch of cumin.  But for a weeknight, this Chianti Beef Stew is my go-to comfort food.  Rich, deep wine flavor and tender chunks of beef melt in your mouth.  And the noodles are a must.  The gravy coats the pasta, stretching the flavor, extending the pleasure. 

Chianti Beef Stew

Serves 4

4 ounces pancetta, chopped (you can substitute bacon)

1/2 cup sliced onion (about 1/2 a medium onion)

1 tbsp minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped carrots (about 1 medium carrot)

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound beef chuck, cut in 1 inch cubes

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 cups Chianti (or other red wine)

1 cup beef stock

12 ounces egg pappardelle or egg noodles*, cooked according to package directions

3 tbsp shaved parmesan cheese

In a large pot over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crisp.  With a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Add the onion, garlic, and carrots to the fat in the pot.  Add salt and pepper and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a dish and set aside.  Add the butter to the pot.  In a small bowl, toss the beef with the flour and salt and pepper.  Add the beef to the pot.  Cook, undisturbed, for two minutes to allow the beef to brown.  Move the beef around for a minute or two to allow for some browning on all sides, but do not cook through.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook one more minute. Add 1/4 cup wine to deglaze and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to bring up all of the caramelized bits.  Add the remaining wine and broth.  Stir the pancetta and vegetables back into the pot.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring every so often, for 45 minutes to an hour.  Serve the stew over pasta and topped with cheese.

* I typically buy fresh papardelle at DePasquales Pasta Shop a few streets over, but given the blizzard conditions, I improvised with a bag of simple egg noodles, and turns out, egg noodles are a very tasty stand-in!

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Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm  Comments (23)  
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