Monday, December 23, 2013


Back out of the driveway. In the rear-view mirror, spy your son eating frozen cinnamon bread, cookie-monster style. Listen to your daughter practicing the intro to "The Raven." Smile big as you drive off because, miracle of fucking Christmas miracles, you are going to be on time for school.


What, Dash?

I'm not buckled.

Slam on the brakes.

Okay. I'm buckled now. But, mom?


I forgot my lunch. And my sweatshirt. And my fencing mask. I'm sorry.

Back up, double park, and race up the stairs like a madwoman. Find all of the critical items. Race back down the stairs like a madwoman. Re-enter the vehicle.


Yes, Bella?

Please turn on the holiday music.

Crank Lite FM's all-Christmas-music-all-the-time station.


Feel something involuntary and preachy bubbling up. Let go into a holiday-themed platitudinous rant about the importance of process and empathy and how anything worth doing takes time and effort and patience and how we need to be content with what we have and how very lucky we are to have food on our table and presents under the tree and heat and Wi-Fi and gin and chocolate chip cookies and parkour classes and a Democrat in the White House and—

Mom, did that guy really just sing that his mama kissed Santa Claus?

It's possible. I wasn't listening. 

What are you going to do today, mom?

I'm NOT going to kiss Santa. 

Good. He's kind of old anyway.

He's not my type.

Right. Daddy's your type! 

Swerve the car into the school's carpool drop-off line.

Dashi. Bella. Can I tell you something funny?


I'm wearing my nightgown underneath my parka.


Mom, that is not funny at all.

Bella, no one can tell.

Listen to your son laugh so hard you worry he might hurt himself.


Yes, Bella?

Please open the doors. We're going to be late.

Wish they would stay with you forever in this warm car bubble.

I love you guys. Have a beautiful day. 


Yes, Dash?

You have a beautiful day too. Making stew. Or whatever you do.

Press the unlock button and set them free.

Watch them fade into the colorful lunchbox crowd. Your daughter all perfectly tweened out in skinny jeans and side pony tail and lip gloss. Your son, trailing and flailing behind, all 6-year-old Pig-Pen scrappy with his sweatpants covered in dog hair, cowlicky hair sticking out all over, parka dragging along the ground.

Lean back in your seat and feel your morning adrenaline flatline.

Say your daily mantra. Just start with the bed. Just start with the bed. Just start with the bed. Just start with the bed. Just start with the bed.

Drive home. Enter the house. Make the bed.

Cook stew in your nightgown.

(for margi young: keep breathing.)
(for chris eigeman: hey look, it's not dessert!)

Nightgown Stew Ramblings

Old news: Beef + wine + hours of slow cooking = sweet meaty goodness.

New news: Some beauty happens when you halve carrots, coat them with salt and pomegranate molasses, place them on top of wine-drenched stew meat, and leave them to simmer away all day in the oven. When you open the pot many hours later, you will found the carrots resting just where you left them, still intact, their sweetness exponentially increased. Carefully remove the carrots and heat them up in a separate pan before serving. 

The stew can be served over couscous, polenta, pasta, or brown rice. And, for things to be exciting, you must have toppings on the table, My favorites are crème fraiche or yogurt, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate arils, chopped parsley, herbaceous olive oil, and coarse salt.

You can make this several days ahead of time. You can freeze it. You can expand the leftovers with cooked potatoes, turnips, and more canned tomatoes. You can even make this exact same recipe with lamb shoulder (just add some aromatics like cinnamon and paprika when you're cooking the garlic/anchovy paste). 

printable recipe
serve 6-8

6 cloves garlic
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon tomato paste
vegetable oil for searing off meat
4 pounds  beef stew meat, cut into approximately 2" x 2" cubes (I use chuck)
kosher salt and pepper for seasoning the meat
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
10 shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise*
1 28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes
2-3 cups red wine (use something big and yummy but not special)
2-3 cups beef stock
15 large carrots
2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
optional toppings:
herbaceous olive oil
coarse salt
pomegranate arils
crème fraîche or yogurt
chopped parsley
toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 275°F.

With a mortar and pestle, make a paste out of the garlic, anchovy, and tomato paste. Set aside.

Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. You need to sear it off in batches because the pieces will steam if crammed together. Place large ovenproof pot on high heat. Add a splash of oil to the hot pan. When the oil is glistening and hot, carefully place a third of the meat into the pan. No need to fiddle with the pieces. Just let them do their thing. Once they're seared to a nice dark brown, flip them. They don't have to be seared all over. Just make sure at least half of each piece has some color. Reserve on a plate. Continue with the remaining two batches.

Turn off the heat under the pot and let it cool for a few minutes. You want the goodies that are left behind in the pan, but your vinegar will burn if you add it too soon.

While the pot is cooling, peel your carrots. If you like, you can leave a bit of stem on each top. Halve the carrots lengthwise.

Turn the pot to medium heat. Add the balsamic vinegar. Add the shallots. Brown the shallots for a few minute on each side. Make sure to coat them well with the vinegar and the remainders from the seared meat. Add your garlic/anchovy/tomato paste mixture and stir one minute. Add back all of the seared meat and juices. Add the tomatoes. Cover the meat with a combination of red wine and beef stock.

Bring to the boil. Stir.

On a plate, toss carrots halves with pomegranate molasses and salt. Scatter the carrots gently across the top of the uncooked stew. Cover with a lid. Place in the oven for many hours. Don't stir or the carrots will fall apart. Just leave it all alone. It's done when the meat is stringy and falls apart easily. This takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours.

When the stew is done,  carefully remove carrots with a large spatula and place them in a separate pan to keep warm. Stir stew. Taste. Adjust. I often need to add salt and some kind of acid (lemon or sherry wine vinegar). Keep tasting. Keep adjusting. If it's not as thick as you'd like, reduce it down on medium heat, stirring often so it doesn't burn.

Serve over polenta, couscous, brown rice, or pasta. Top each serving with a few cooked carrots. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Or go crazy like I do and add pomegranate arils, crème fraîche, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, and coarse salt.

Freezes beautifully though the carrots might fall apart a bit. No big deal.

*Shallots peel really easily if you pop them in boiling water for 15 seconds and then shock them in cold water.


  1. Lovely story and recipe. Happy Christmas!

  2. Love your morning ramblings and this stew - especially the carrots! I have anchovy filets to use...and pomegranates, and there is stew beef waiting in the freezer. This was a perfect find today. Thanks! :)

  3. Hell, I would eat that for dessert in a second! (It's true,my relentless lack of a sweet tooth can be limiting). A beautiful stew.

    1. thanks, chris. seems like a good thing to make today while that storm is coming in. happy new year. miss you. miss nyc. xoxo

  4. Sounds yummy. FYI Your search box doesn't appear to work at all, at least not using a Macbook Air and Google Chrome Version 31.0.1650.63

  5. I messed this recipe up in at least 4 distinct ways (sort of burned instead of seared the meat by the last batch, am not sure I really properly deglazed the pan or adequately browned the shallots, added way too much liquid because I eyeballed it, and didn't really let it cook long enough given the over-liquid mistake)...and it was still brilliant! (Question - Was I supposed to put the entire can of tomatoes plus juice in...or just the tomatoes, drained?)

    1. zoe. i loved that you made this and reported back. i should have noted that you might need to regulate the heat a bit when searing off the meat. and in the end you can cook it down on the stovetop without a lid until desired consistency is reached. stew really is so forgiving. almost hard to write the recipe up because i do it differently every single time. and yes. i do add the tomato juice and the tomatoes. but you don't have to. happy new year!

  6. I've had it for leftovers twice and when I did so, I cooked the liquid down on the stovetop and the flavors intensified and it was great! Also, for leftovers I made polenta, whereas my original attempt was with egg noodles, which were slippery suckers given that I had too much liquid. Your cookies are next!

    1. zoe. thanks for the update. often, stew is better the next day. time for the flavors to meld. and more time for the reduction. and yes, i much prefer polenta to egg noodles. i think i'm going to go make some polenta right now!

  7. Pomegranate molasses is this something we buy or make?

    1. i've never made pomegranate molasses but i know that some people do. i buy it. or i buy pomegranate concentrate (less sweet). another option is to use thick balsamic vinegar (though the color isn't as pretty).

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Lovely post and great recipe! thanks a lot for sharing

  10. Phyllis, I just loved this stew recipe! I am actually not a stew lover - it's fine, but rarely my first choice. But this looked so good I had to try - it was absolutely the best stew I've ever had and my family loved it. I would love to talk about it on my blog and link back here to you!

    Sorry for the duplicate!

    1. lisa, i'm thrilled that you made the stew. and would be honored it you wrote about it on your blog. can't wait to see!

    2. Here it is! Thanks again for such a wonderful recipe! :)

  11. I love the taste of pomegranate molasses and I make my own. Sounds utterly delicious.

  12. What a great day, cooking, with a 2 kids :) , and pomegranate molasses ? that would be good

  13. You and your children are very sweet. It makes me think of having one or two of my own. But first, I must find a wife for myself. It must be lovely cooking for them.

  14. I just love your blog! Love the post and the recipe.
    Real good food with funny interesting simple real life you have the perfect recipe for blogging!
    Hope you would like to try some of my recipe too

  15. I love that you dropped your kids off at school in your nightgown... it's just so cool - I think my kids would react the exact same way! This sounds amazing but we don't cook with wine - can we use something else...?

    1. you can use any kind of stock. beef or chicken or vegetable or a combination of the three.

  16. Love reading your posts - I am hooked on your blog now! This recipe sounds so delicious - love the pomegranate molasses - can't wait to try this!

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