Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hello Paula Deen, Beef Stew Much??

Beef stew was one of those foods I avoided from age 5-18... my mom tried to make it a few times but my brother was super picky it wasn't worth the fight. And, for what it's worth, I knew that no matter how many foods I rejected, I would never be as picky as Tommy so I kinda flew under the radar on these things and ate whatever I wanted for the most part.

Anyway, now I like it and when I went to ask my mom for the recipe a few months ago she said, "Oh- I don't make a good Beef Stew". Really? I hope someone besides a 7-year-old boy who insists on eating cereal, cheese pizza, and peas and an opportunistic 5-year-old girl told her it wasn't good... Either way, I wasn't getting any from the family, recipe file (and I don't think such a file exists...).

Enter Paula Deen and her Old Time Beef Stew. It got 5/5 stars based on 381 reviews on Food Network and there was non of her typical Ms. Deen butter: how does one say no? I read the reviews and decided to add a bit of beef broth and red potatoes. I purchased all organic ingredients, including 2 pounds of organic, grass fed, locally grown beef from Whole Foods (my wallet is still crying). I was super excited.

But here's the problem : Amy doesn't know how to brown beef. Obviously, I cook it until it's some sort of brown. But, does that mean just brown on all sides? Cooked through? How long should it take? As I have the equivalent of this month's rent worth of beef cooking in the Le Crueset, I am frantically posting on yahoo's answer board... "how do I brown stew meat?". Here is what I know now...

1. Browning meat is done to seal in the flavor and prevent the meat from getting tough;
2. Stew meat should be browned, but not cooked all of the way through; and
3. One should not over-crowd the pan during browning process, as this will actually steam the meat instead of browning the meat.

Well, I went for the triple crown and botched all three of these things. My meat was tough; my meat was cooked all the way through; and my pan was super-crowded steaming the meat. Go big or go home? I suppose...

And by no means was that the end of it... apparently, I am inept at how to simmer for 1 1/2 hours on our new cook-top. I could not find "simmer" to save my life. It was either "boil" or "warm". I finally got around to adding the carrots, celery, and potatoes. I added THREE extra cups of beef broth to compensate for the potatoes (and besides, the liquid level was super low in the pot". It took 20 minutes longer to cook than anticipated because of the additions, and even though I added extra cornstarch to thicken the "gravy" as Ms. Deen calls it, it still was pretty watery.

So, we ended up with a soup that had a great flavor, but I would not give it a 5/5- obviously I messed up something (or perhaps everything). The hunks of meat and potato were HUGE and they did not fit in with the watery base.

The good thing?? We have 2 nights worth of left-overs to get through in the near future. Lucky us :)

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