Ladies’ Beef Stew
My favorite place is my local Hannaford market. While the main Lowell store is larger with a bigger selection, Billy the Kid and I prefer the closer and smaller Dracut location, with clerks that know us by name and two buggy-carts, one of which is almost always available at 9:20 in the morning. Last week, while BK unpacked the cart into a precarious tower on the belt, I noticed the in-house publication, “Fresh,” for the first time, free with a purchase of $25. It’s done shockingly well considering its primary value as marketing collateral, with little self-aggrandizement and absolutely no paid advertising. The January/February issue features a bunch of soups and stews, as well as various comfort foods and chocolate desserts.
The first recipe I chose to execute was for Cinnamon-Spiced Beef Stew, an odd title for the corresponding anise-explosion. Fennel seeds are usually used in moderation, but creator Nina Simonds is not taking any chances that you might miss the parfum. I followed the recipe below exactly, but next time I’ll halve the fennel, as I don’t need to address my dinner as “madam.”
2 tbsp olive or canola oil
2 lb Angus round stewing beef
2 tbsp flour
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 onion, each cut into 6 wedges
1 1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, cut in quarters
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp fennel seeds
3/4 C full-bodied red wine (Shiraz or Cabernet)
1 lb peeled baby carrots
3/4 C reduced-sodium beef broth
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (a charming but ridiculous suggestion – use 1 tsp)
Put the flour and beef in a large mixing bowl and toss with a wooden spoon until the meat is completely coated. Heat up 2 tsp of the oil a large pot over medium-high. Add half of the beef and sauté until golden-brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the seared meat to a bowl, add another 2 tsp of oil to the pot, and throw in the remaining beef. Repeat the sauté, then transfer to the cooked-meat bowl.
Add the last 2 tsp of oil to the pot, give it a minute to heat up, then add the garlic, onions, mushrooms, cinnamon sticks and fennel seeds. Sauté over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add 3 tbsp of the red wine, and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Cover it up and cook until the onions are limp, about 3 minutes.
Return the seared beef and any juices to the pot, and add the carrots, remaining wine and broth. Stir everything up well, bring the liquid to a boil, cover it back up and turn the heat down to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef and vegetables are tender. I must intercede here; the author estimates cooking time to be 1 hour 15 minutes after the final covering, but your meat will not be tender for at least another 45. Plan accordingly.
Stir in salt and pepper before serving (unless you’ve been adding them all along the way), and serve with potatoes or crusty bread.