Today has been one of those days that makes me want to stay under the covers and never leave. When I ventured out briefly to buy milk (okay and blue cheese--I need my fix), a cold misty rain brushed my face. I made it to my car, ventured out to Trader Joe's and fought my way through a sea of bustling customers elbowing each other for the last bags of organic tortilla chips. By the time I got back to my apartment, I was cold, wet and feeling pretty miserable.
Then, something wonderful happened.
The mail came.
Meet my beautiful new green apple enameled cast iron 6 qt Dutch oven. It is by far the most beautiful kitchen item I own. It was love at first sight. I had been coveting this baby since before Christmas and it was even more beautiful in person than online. For weeks, I had dreamed of things I could roast in this beautiful bed of porcelain, but it wasn't until yesterday morning that I had an idea of what to make. At the farmers market, I stopped in front of one of the meat stalls and spotted a stack of beef marrow bones. My inaugural dish was going to be beef stew.
I started by slowly heating up my Dutch oven and when the oil was hot, browned the beef and marrow bone.
When the meat was brown and happy, I covered everything with water, added some spices and a chopped onion, covered the pan and let it simmer for an hour before adding more vegetables to the pot.
The recipe I used didn't call for potatoes, but to me, it's not stew without potatoes so I added some quartered new potatoes to the mix.
Once the vegetables were in, I cooked everything, covered, for another 40 minutes. By this point, my senses could barely take another whiff of the amazing aroma permeating through my apartment. Every inhale sent my stomach growling with hunger and anticipation. I pulled off the lid, added a tablespoon of cornstarch to the pot, cooked for a few more minutes and dug in.
If you want a dish that warms the coldest of days, make this stew. The beef was incredibly tender, the marrow bone added incredible flavor and a rich burgundy color (speaking of, I bet this would be excellent with red wine). The carrots add a bit of sweetness and the cloves take the flavor in an unexpectedly welcome direction. A perfect melding of flavors.
Old-Time Beef Stew (adapted from Paula Deen as seen on foodnetwork.com)
2 pounds stew beef
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups water (I ended up adding a bit more because some evaporated out)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (I didn't have any on hand, so I omitted and was still satisfied with the flavor, though it would probably have made the taste even more delicious and complex)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Dash ground allspice or ground cloves
3 large carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Brown meat in hot oil. Add water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, and allspice. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaves and garlic clove. Add carrots and celery. Cover and cook 30 to 40 minutes longer. To thicken gravy, remove 2 cups hot liquid. Using a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup water and cornstarch until smooth. Mix with a little hot liquid and return mixture to pot. Stir and cook until bubbly.