CHEF DEL COOK ALPINE WINTER BEEF STEW
Recipe by CHEF DEL COOK
Aprés ski meals tend to be rich. It’s what we crave after a long day of carving fresh trails into the white powdered mountainside. A day of physical invigoration calls for a meal of substance. Skiing outdoors all day also means less time to be in the kitchen preparing. This is why a well made winter beef stew fits in so well. Whilst the overall cooking time is long the actual time you need to spend at the stove is quite short. Most of the time spent to assemble this dish is in the marinating and stewing processes. While this is happening you can be relaxing with a glass of wine in your hand. Once complete the stew can be eaten over the course of the following week. Just like the tomato sauce your grandmother slowly braised all day, the flavor will improve each passing day. It also freezes well. An interesting relationship exists between marinating and cooking. The longer you marinate the longer it after cooking for the flavor to peak. Just like a great wine aged in French oak barrels needs time to integrate – a stew needs time to bloom. This is exactly the case for Winter Beef Stew.
When selecting beef for stewing start with beef raised on a caring farm and preferably local. Relationships with farmers can be surprisingly rewarding if you engage and allow them to grow. In return you will have a positive influence in your local community creating a healthier local world for you and neighbours. Next choose a tougher cut such as shoulder, cheek or shank. These are all muscles that work hard which makes them tough. This is the perfect choice for slow stewing and the tough parts will soften after hours of cooking. Finally, choose a rich red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Mallbec or Carmenère. It shouldn’t be expensive but you also want to avoid the plonkers that have added sugar to make them seem better than they are. Look for wines from Chile or Argentina for great value cooking wine.
- 3 Carrots split in 4
- 2 Onions quartered
- 1 Leek cut in 2cm pieces
- 1 Celeriac Root or 2 stalks of Celery in 2 cm pieces
- 3 fresh plum tomatoes halved
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 Bay (Laurel) Leaf
- 3 fresh parsley stems
- 3 fresh thyme stems
- sea salt 6 g (2 tbsp)
- 6 whole black peppercorns (toasted is better)
- 3 litres filtered or spring water
Vegetable Stock Recipe
- Peel, wash and cut vegetables
- Tie together parsley, thyme and laurel to form a bouquet garni. Enclose peppercorns in a muslim cloth pouch.
- Place the vegetables, bouquet garni and peppercorn pouch in a stock pot. Cover with cold water.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils turn down the heat to medium low and skim any scum on the surface. Periodically repeat the skimming process.
- Cook for 30 minutes then remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit for a further 20 minutes. This helps the sediment settle to the bottom resulting in a clearer stock.
- With a ladle gently remove the liquid and pour through a strainer (chinois) leaving the vegetables behind.
Winter Beef Stew Marinade
- 3 kg of shoulder or other “tough” cut of meat for stewing cut in 2 cm cubes
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 carrot sliced 3 mm thickness
- 1 bay leaf (large)
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 8 black peppercorns
- 1 bottle of Burgundy wine or other red such as Bordeaux (750ml)
- Place all beef marinade ingredients in a non-reactive container starting with the beef on the bottom.
- Next add the remaining ingredients on top and pour over the wine.
- Allow all ingredients to marinate at least 24 hours and a maximum of 72 hours
- Marinating will create complex flavors in the stew that cannot be achieved in any other way. This is the step that will add magic to your stew.
- 120 grams all pastry flour
- 800 g ripe skinless tomato such as Italian Pomodoro
- Using a small hand strainer remove the aromatics and then the vegetables to a paper towel to dry.
- Strain the Beef Marinade to separate the juice from the meat dry on paper towel keeping the juice aside.
- Once dry coat the beef in flour evenly. Heat one or more large heavy bottom frying pans such as cast iron over maximum heat.
- Once smoking hot carmelize the beef on all sides then remove to cool. The goal is to color the outside but not to cook it. Avoid crowding the pan as it will slow down the process and result in overcooking at this stage.
- Once all the beef has been browned strain the oil and caramelize the sliced onion and carrot in olive oil or butter on high heat about 15 minutes.
- Remove the cooked vegetables to a paper towel and proceed to deglaze the pan with the strained wine liquid.
- Bring to a boil, skim and reduce to a syrup. Add the tomato and proceed to reduce again.
- Once the tomato has reduced by half remove from the heat.
- Transfer the contents to a stew pot and add all the ingredients to the pot.
- At this point you could add potatoes or carrots cut in 2-3 cm chunks to make a more substantial stew.
- Stew for 2 1/2 to 3 hours on low heat until the beef is soft and tender. Alternatively cook in the oven at 125 Celsius.
Winter Beef Stew is quite versatile and could be made spicey, earthy or even smokey. These possibilities expand beyond the classic approach and allow you to tailor the stew style to your own tastes. Adding double-smoked bacon once the stewing begins takes the stew flavors wider, introducing a haunting smokey flavor that lingers in the mouth. Similarly, adding dried chile pepper that has been rehydrated in vegetable stock accents the stews richness with a spicey edge. Adding sautéed mushrooms towards the end of the stewing process layer in an earthy, forest element to the stew. For a luxurious pairing try grating fresh truffles over the stew as it is served. Alternatively a light drizzle of White Truffle Oil would add both flavor and visual appeal to the surface of the stew. Finally, sprinkling a top layer of freshly chopped herb just before serving adds both visual appeal and an energetic green essence to make the stew sparkle in the mouth. Herbs such as chives, chervil, marjoram or mitsuba are perfect choices with which to finish your winter beef stew masterpiece.