Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ania's Infamous Stew

This is one of my favourite meals to make. Not only is it comfort food for a chilly day, it also impresses guests, and still lets me get work done. It is easy to change around depending on what you have lying around the house.  This recipe started out as one of my mother’s. It is a variation on one of my favourite childhood meals that I used to call “dokÅ‚adka” which means seconds in Polish. My mother sent me the original recipe during my first year of University, and I made it using a dorm room hotplate, and a small convection toaster oven. Over the years, I added a variety of small changes which eventually resulted in this amazingly versatile dish. After all this time, it still remains a favourite.

Stewing Beef:
1 ½ -2 lbs Beef, cubed*
Garlic (crushed)
Cayenne Pepper
Olive oil

2 Bay Leaves
Whole pepper kernels
Chicken Bouillon cube
1 leek
1 yellow onion
2 large carrots
3 medium to large potatoes**
1 cup of corn
1 cup of peas
1 package favourite gravy sauce
Marsala Wine
Cayenne Pepper


Stewing Pot
Frying pan
Very Large heat resistant bowl or second pot

Time: 3-4 hours

* My favourite cut of meat to use for this is eye of round, because I love it when the meat just falls apart. You can also use steak cut, stew cubes, loin, really any cuts of beef you have lying around the house. If you have a freezer, this is a great way to use up any frozen pieces of meat before they go bad. Different cuts of meat will require different lengths of stewing depending on how delicate or tough you like it.
** There are some small variations you can make to change up this meal. You can leave out the potatoes, and serve the stew over rice for a more filling meal. You can also add a sweeter Latin or South Pacific flair to this dish by using sweet potato instead of plain potatoes.  The very brave can try adding yucca, although I would recommend adding it an hour before serving, to make sure it is cooked all the way through.

How to:

1.       Make sure the meat is cut into cubes between 1-2 inches square.
2.       Rub the meat with salt, ground pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and crushed garlic. (If you want to really saturate the meat with flavour, let it sit in the marinade for an hour to a day. Otherwise, you can proceed immediately)
3.       Heat olive oil in a frying pan until the oil is hot but not burnt. If you add a drop of water it should sizzle.  Right before you add the beef, lower the heat to medium. Add the cubes and stir consistently at first to avoid them sticking to the pan and burning. The meat should quickly coat with oil and brown nicely.
4.       Brown the outside of the meat completely. 
5.       Add a cup or two of water to the skillet.
6.       While it is simmering, add whole leeks and carrots to a pot, along with bouillon cube, bay leaves, pepper kernels, and fill with water. Take a large onion, peel it and cut it in half. For an added flavour, grill the middle side of the onion directly on the burner until it has a light brown colour. Add the onion to the vegetable broth mix. Add paprika and cayenne pepper to taste.
7.       Bring the vegetable broth to a boil, then lower to medium heat and allow it to simmer for one hour. Keep an eye on the meat mix to make sure the water does evaporate. The meat should always be covered in simmering water. Stir the meat occasionally to keep from burning. The more water you can add to the skillet, the less often you will have to stir it and refill it.
8.       After an hour, strain the vegetable broth into a large bowl. You can discard the leeks and bay leaves (some people like to keep the leeks; I find them to be too mushy after boiling. All of the nutrients are now in the broth) as well as the pepper kernels. Add the package of gravy to the bowl of broth and mix together.
9.       Pour the broth-gravy mix back into the pot. Add the meat with the simmering water. Cut up and add the cooked carrots.  If there is any space left in the pot, add more water and let the whole mixture simmer for another hour. Stir occasionally.
10.   About half an hour before serving, peel and cube the potatoes and add directly to the stew. Add also the peas, corn, and any other vegetables you might be interest in adding. If you prefer a thicker stew, add an extra gravy packet and either a tablespoon of flour, or a teaspoon of corn starch.
11.    Once the potatoes are fully cooked, add Marsala wine. One shot of wine is usually sufficient.
12.   Serve and Enjoy!

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