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July 6, 2007 / Tony

A wonderful beef stew

I know this recipe is out of season but since I think it is so good, I’ve decided to post it anyway.  The recipe is Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin (via Epicurious.com).  I love the balance created by the large amount of onions in the recipe and the sweetness of the hoisin sauce.  The red wine adds a nice complexity to the mix as does the hoisin.  The carrots are wonderfully flavored by the stew and the cornstarch adds just the right amount of body to the stew while also giving a nod to the Asian influences in this dish.  This is exactly the type of recipe I love-a simple recipe of a classic dish dressed up by what I like to call a “wow” ingredient.  In this case, the wow is supplied by the hoisin sauce.  Give this dish a try, especially over my mashed potatoes.  Here’s the recipe: 

Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces

3 1/2 cups chopped onions

2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, undrained

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

2 bay leaves

1 pound slender carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over high heat.  Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper.  Add meat to pot; sauté until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Push meat to sides of pot.  Reduce heat to medium; add 2 tablespoons oil to pot.  Add onions; sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Mix meat into onions.  Add 1 cup wine, tomatoes with juices, hoisin sauce, and bay leaves.  Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add carrots and 1 cup wine.  Cover; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Uncover, increase heat to high; boil until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer.  Reduce heat to medium, add cornstarch mixture and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.  Discard bay leaves.  Season stew with salt and pepper.  (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cool slightly.  Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.  Bring to simmer before serving, stirring occasionally.)  Transfer stew to large bowl.  Sprinkle with parsley; serve.

Makes 6 servings.

A few notes on the recipe.  A enameled cast iron Dutch oven works wonders for this recipe.  But whatever pot you use, make sure you get a good brown on all of the meat.  This may take a lot of time.  Be patient, however, as this will determine much of the final flavor in the dish.  What happens during the browning is called the Maillard reaction.  It is a complex, and not yet fully understood, process in which food browns (it is distinct from caramelization which only has to do with sugar).  Apart from giving food a nice appearance, this reaction gives a lot of flavor to food.  It is what will give that nice, deep flavor that everyone craves in a stew.  Attendant to this direction, is the technique of frying the meat in batches if your pot (and I know it isn’t) does not have enough surface area to comfortably hold one layer of meat.  You do not want to crowd the meat in the pan, else it will steam instead of brown and you will get none of that wonderful flavor.  So, just heat the oil in the pan and put just enough meat in the pan to cover and let that side of the meat brown before turning.  When that batch of meat has been browned on each side, take it out of the pan and hold it until the rest of the meat is done.  When all the meat is done (and, in this recipe, the onions are cooked), add all the meat back into the pan along with any juices.  Last thing, there is a funny little instruction in the recipe of cook the onions in the middle of the meat.  I really see no reason for this.  I would suggest to take all of the meat out of the pan and saute the onions on their own until they are cooked.  It will be faster and far easier.  Also be sure to be scraping the bottom of the pan with the onions; you will actually be deglazing the pan with the liquid from the onions.  Those little brown bits of meat, called frond, have a ton of flavor in them and you want to get all of that into your stew.  Enjoy.

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2 Comments

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  1. coffeepot / Jul 6 2007 6:38 pm

    That sounds wonderful to me.

  2. Jezzika / Jul 6 2007 9:31 pm

    I have been looking for just such a great stew recipe and love the Japanese flavors… this one sounds great with hoisin, and I will try it very soon – even if it isn’t “Stew” weather! Thanks for offering and sharing it! Best, lj

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