Friday, December 4, 2009


"Momma, is it okay if I don't cook with you today?" My girl is burned out. Too much time in the kitchen. I'm going to cook stew, but she would rather make patterns in yogurt with raspberry purée.

If you're a vegetarian you should stop reading now and check back in a few days for my Persimmon Salad recipe. For the rest of you...

Dash is ready for anything. "Momma, you cook? We cook? Meat. Look that meat." Three pounds of chuck. When I was little I thought Chuck was the cow's name. "YUMMY CHUCK," shrieks Dash. Poor Chuck. But this cow had a good life at Prather Ranch. No hormones. No antibiotics. Organic food. And lots of roaming around the hills of Northern Calfornia.

Chuck meat is from the muscular front shoulder of the cow. This cut needs to be cooked in liquid for a long time to soften up but it has lots of flavor. The connective tissue makes it particularly hard to eat raw. But Dash gives it a shot. He grabs a piece and gnaws on it. "Too chewy," he says.

Dash has two modes in the kitchen: speedy helper or crazy troublemaker. Thankfully he kicks into helper mode. I don't even have to tell him what to do. He just grabs a paper towel and starts meticulously drying each piece of meat. He's getting really good at seasoning with salt and pepper.
 When he thinks I'm not looking he fills his oven mitt with cubed meat.
I am uninspired by all the stew recipes I find. So I do my own thing. To the base I add lots of onions, anchovies, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and thinly sliced garlic. I hate mushy coins of overcooked carrots so I cut big old chunks (you could even put the carrots in whole). I end up cooking it for 4 hours. I serve the stew over this wacky pasta called Sa Fregula Sarda. It's a traditional oven-toasted Sardinian durum wheat semolina pasta.  You can boil it like pasta or cook it like risotto by slowly adding chicken stock until it's al dente.
I finish my stew with lots of toppings: pomegranate seeds, creamy yogurt, pomegranate syrup, parsley, olive oil, and crunchy salt. Dash puts his face right down to the edge of the bowl and sighs, "Beautiful stew."
Usually, if my kids cook with me they want to eat what they've made. Not this time with Dash. When I give him a fork he says, "Yucky stew." He finds it nice to look at but not to eat. Funny that he was willing to eat raw cubes of meat but not the stew. Maybe the meat transformed so much in those 4 hours that he didn't even recognize it. He refuses to taste it even once. Bella, on the other hand, can't stop eating it. She even requests it for her school lunch. I put it in her thermos hot and covered with yogurt and extra pomegranate seeds.

I'm no longer going to call it stew. Stew sounds like brown glop. Instead it's our Slow-Cooked Beef and Carrots.
P.S. In my stew research, I learned about Sonofabitch Stew (aka Rascal Stew). It was popular with the cowboys back in the day. To make it you would use my recipe below and then replace the chuck with a cow's heart, brain, liver, thymus gland, and marrow gut. It's a twisted Wizard of Oz in a bowl. Maybe I'll make it in 2010.

printable recipe

Feeds 6-8

3 pounds beef chuck stew meat, cubed and preferably organic and/or local
vegetable oil for searing meat
2 onions. peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil (if in salt rinse off excess)
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 bottle of red wine (I used a $9.99 zinfandel)
1 cup water
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs of parsley
14 ounce can of tomatoes (whole or diced)
10 large carrots, trimmed and sliced into 3 inch chunks (or leave them whole if carrots are small)

toppings (any or all of the following):
yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche
pomegranate seeds
pomegranate syrup
chopped parsley
fleur de sel
toasted pine nuts
chopped cilantro
olive oil

serve over:
pasta, couscous, polenta, or rice

Spread cubes of meat out on a sheet pan, dry them very well, and season all over with lots of salt and pepper. Put a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. Crank the heat as high as it goes.  Add just enough oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pot. Add enough of the meat chunks so that they're not overlapping and sear them until brown and caramelized on all sides. Don't overcrowd the meat or it will steam and not brown. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and put it back on the sheet pan and continue the same way until all the meat is seared. Add more oil to the pot if you need to. Set meat aside.

Turn heat down to medium and add the onions. Scrape up all the fat and goodies left over in the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until onions are soft and nicely browned. Add flour and cook for a minute, stirring the whole time. Add garlic, tomato paste, anchovy, cumin and paprika. Continue cooking for a few more minutes, stirring the whole time. Add the whole bottle of wine plus one cup water. Throw in all the herbs and the canned tomatoes. Add the seared meat and the carrots. Bring up to a boil. Turn down heat to low and cover the pot. Stir it every 20 minutes or so. It's done when the meat is falling apart. This can take anywhere from 2-4 hours. If the stew is too soupy when the meat it done, reduce it down at the end with the lid off. Also make sure to check the seasoning. I needed to add a bit more salt and pepper. Remove remaining sprigs of thyme and parsley and the bay leaf. Serve over pasta, couscous, polenta, or rice. Have bowls of selected toppings at the table.


  1. Inspiring! And perfect for a chilly 21 degree night in the midwest. Love the photo stories - love your blog!

  2. I definitely want to try this one! Keep going, Girl!

  3. I love that Dash is sneaking in chunks of raw beef into the oven mit. Those kids are getting such incredible food exposure. As I reading about him eating raw beef and seasoning like a pro, I was thinking, *sigh*, Dash is such a better eater than Maya. And just then, you continued to say that he didn't have a single bite of it! Ha ha ha! Admittedly, that made me feel better! :-)

  4. Remarkable;
    A. All of it!
    B. I have a fantasy of serving pretty swirled yogurt to my future-kids. Only I did it with berry kefier for contrast. Jam stars are pretty!!
    C. Creamy tart yogurt is *exactly* the right thing to smother on savoury slow cooked meat mmmmmm!

  5. Phyllis-
    Its Eliza's friend in Montana. We made your stew for our halloween party. Fabulous. I only have one little bowl left over for lunch:(

  6. I second what Marcy said. Although fabulous doesn't seem to be a wonderful enough a descriptor. It was epic and we will make it again! Thanks for posting and, Marcy, thanks for sharing!

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