Fierce Foodie: Stifado Your Face With This Stew
a blogumn by Roya Hamadani
Here in Pittsburgh it’s been snowing almost everyday for over a week. Cleaning the snow off my car day after day after day makes me want a nice warm bowl of beef stew. To me, stew is a kind of magic created from humble ingredients – inexpensive cuts of meat, onions, and pantry contents – come together to make a sum infinitely greater than its parts.
The trick to making a good stew is patience. To render the beef tender and produce a rich broth, a stew has to be left alone to cook at a very low heat setting for several hours – the longer the better. Long, slow cooking pulls the fat out of the tough beef and softens the meat. Using a leaner cut of beef generally results in dry, stringy meat and thin broth, and more expensive, tender cuts are wasted in a stew.
One of my favorite recipes is for a Greek version called stifado. Chunks of slowly simmered, tender beef and onions are flavored with garlic, bay leaf, red wine and tomato. A marinade of vinegar cuts the richness of the stew and brightens the flavors of the herbs. Served over little pillows of potato gnocchi, it’s simple and soul warming.
Briefly marinate 1 pound of stew beef cut into chunks with enough vinegar to cover and 2 cloves garlic in non-reactive, glass bowl. 15 minutes is sufficient. Remove the beef chunks from the marinade and brown them in olive oil in a dutch oven or large stew pot with lid. Add 2-3 pounds chopped onions, 1 can of tomato paste, 3 cloves garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar and a ½ cup of red wine or water. 1 tsp of dried oregano, marjoram or rosemary is optional. Cook for 3 plus hours on the lowest setting on the range. It’s ready when the beef is falling apart tender. Serve over gnocchi with crusty bread.