The Cubs lost a playoff game last night. And the night before. I was at the second game, the game wherein they truly self-destructed, and I can’t even begin to express the despair felt by all in the stadium. Even the Dodger fans sitting next sit me seemed a bit bummed. Of course they wanted their team to win, but still would have appreciated a good game. A day later and I’m still feeling glum (good word, right?), so I figured it was necessary to bring out the big guns with something I like to call Really, Really Cooked Beef Stew. You see, I like my stew thick with the meat falling apart as though it were braised, which let’s face it, isn’t too far of a stretch.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really think the whole meal through before I began. I got the stew going and all was good until about halfway through when I realized that I needed something to eat with the stew, namely a nice chunk of crusty bread. At this point there just wasn’t time to make a starter or even allow a rapid-rise bread the time needed to proof.
Damn it, I was glum and getting a bit hungry (also the reason why I didn’t take photos throughout). I quickly Googled “quick rise bread,” “no rise bread,” and finally “beer bread,” which is where I found my answer. I followed the recipe with two exceptions: used whole wheat flour (which incidentally expired 11 months ago – oops) and cold beer rather than room temperature. In the end I decided this bread is good to have as a back-up when you’re craving fresh, warm out-of-the-oven bread with a nice crust but wouldn’t be my first choice overall, and it has a slightly off aftertaste that is probably just the beer flavor, but a little unfamiliar to me as I rarely drink beer.
*This blurry photo was intended to show just how tender the beef was, but turned out poorly because the camera fell into the stew while taking it.
Really, Really Cooked Beef Stew1/4 cup grape seed oil (or vegetable oil)
1/2 cup AP flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound small red potatoes or fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 325F. Heat half the oil in a large oven-safe pot (i.e. Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Mix together 1/4 cup flour, salt and pepper, then add the beef and toss until evenly coated. Add half the beef, or however much will fit in the pot without overcrowding and sear until brown on all sides, about three to four minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a bowl. Add the remaining oil to the pan, then repeat with the remaining beef.
Once all the beef has been browned and removed from the pan, add the garlic and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes (be careful not to burn the garlic). Pour in the red wine and stir with a wooden spoon to remove the fond, or brown bits, from the bottom of the pan. Simmer the wine until it reduces by half, about five minutes, then add the beef broth, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the rest of the flour, then the remaining vegetables. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours more until the meat falls apart (you can cook it less based on personal preference) and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the rest of the red wine and beer batter bread.
Beer Batter Bread (adapted from epicurious.com)3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 12-ounce bottle beer, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a loaf pan; set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the beef and mix until all the flour is combined but still lumpy. Form the dough into as much of a loaf shape as possible and place it in the loaf pan. Top with the melted butter and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.