Friday, October 14, 2011
Orange Cumin Beef Stew
Recently a dear friend called on the phone sounding excited. "Nicole, I have two things to tell you," she said. "First, on the way to work, there was a car in front of me with a bumper sticker: Love people. Cook them good food. That's what you do!!" I could hear the smile in her voice. "Second, I made your chili last night and we're having it tonight. I'm about to make the muffins." Bravo, I thought, people are starting to cook from my blog. I love it.
I guess I hadn't realized to what extent I do follow that mantra. Lucky to finally be in a city where we have both friends and family, I've been capitalizing on this and hosting miniature dinner parties during the week. Entertaining mid-week breaks up any monotony and invites warmth into what might otherwise be just another night. Well, there was nothing blasé about last Thursday night. I invited an old friend (with a great sense of humor) whom we've known for 13 years. P arrived home from work and spontaneously pulled out a bottle of good Champagne. What better way to celebrate life then to feast and be merry on a Thursday night?
Forgive my enthusiasm. Now I want to talk about stew.
There are foods that we expect to taste the same every time we eat them. That's part of the attraction; they are foods we can depend on to make us feel a certain way. This recipe, however, is the revival of beef stew, a trusty old comfort food. And watch out, this is not your grandmother's stew. This one is daring and bold with a flavor combination that sets it apart from the classic and sends it into the realm of legendary. A dish that you'll want to make over and over because it will be hard to forget.
My mother used to make this stew for "company." It's special enough for any family gathering but also remarkable enough to share with friends, guests, or "company" in the old-fashioned sense of the term. Serve with some crusty French bread and wait to hear the symphony of "mmmmmmm....!"
Orange Cumin Beef Stew
I suggest making this one day before you plan on serving it so that all of the flavors really pop.
3 pounds chuck for stew, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup orange juice
grated rind of one orange (choose organic)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons allspice
8 ounces fresh or frozen pearl onions
1 pound small mushrooms
butter for sautéing
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the beef in medium/hot oil a few pieces at a time to brown. Transfer it to a large pot and add all the other ingredients except the onions, mushrooms, butter, salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer on medium-low, stirring occasionally for about 1 1/2 hours or until the beef is tender. If the sauce is too thin, add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in water.
Saute the onions and mushrooms briefly in butter and add them to the stew.
Note: If you are using fresh pearl onions, boil them in water for 3 minutes. Then cut the root end off and the skins should peel off easily.