And after weeks of radio silence, I’m back. It’s been a busy month, October. It’s my favorite month and I thought that I would have so many things to share with you, and I do, but finding the time to write about all of them is the hard part. I’ve made some tasty stuff, crafted some cute things for our house, had a party, attended a wedding. I have things to share with you about all of them.
Last weekend was our very first Married People Anniversary, which we spent in Monterey celebrating my dearest cousin‘s wedding. We spent it drinking, and dancing, and relaxing and eating, in true Big Italian Family fashion. The weather was beautiful, I had crab cakes and eggs for breakfast one morning which just about sent me over the top, it was so great.
Nick and I stopped in the city on our way home and had a sweet lunch at a cafe in our favorite park and a serendipitous encounter with our favorite truffle store, which was supposed to be closed but to our delight was open. The air was fresh and crisp, the way fall air should be, and the bells of the cathedral chiming the hours away were the perfect touch.
Three days away makes me antsy, though. I miss my cat, and I miss my cooking. After a long day of traveling all I wanted was a home cooked dinner and some cozy pants. One of those items was going to be a lot more work than the other. Any other day of the year it would have been Eggs and Something for dinner, but that Sunday was The Actual Anniversary. There’s no way I was going to celebrate this auspicious occasion with fried eggs and toast. You get me?
Armed with cozy pants and my grocery bag I went to the store, as our cupboard was bare, anything of substance was going to require defrosting, and my energy was waning. A short spin around the grocery store for necessities (coffee, milk, a bunch of kale that cried out to me when I walked by) and a layover at the butcher counter and we were having beef stew for dinner. Not necessarily the most romantic meal, but it sounded so good and was something I could put together with little effort. I tossed a bottle of red wine into the basket and I was my merry way.
We made dinner together, which we do sometimes but not too often in our busy lives (control freak over here doesn’t let people drive her kitchen). The gentle rhythm and sizzle of browning the meat cubes, chopping the veggies and drinking wine brought everything back in to perspective. The cat actually hung around, and his cat sitter for the weekend stopped in for an anniversary beer and stayed for dinner. We laughed and talked and had a nice evening. Couldn’t have been a better anniversary.
My stew recipe is pretty basic, as many of the best are in my opinion. I’ve read over so many of them that call for exotic spices, expensive bottles of wine just dumped in the pot ($40 Barolo? Surely you jest…), and difficult and/or time consuming tasks. Stew to me should be something that comes together quick, cooks for ages, and soothes your soul on consumption. Fancy it’s not, pretty it won’t be, but a steaming perfect bowl should make you feel like everything is right in the universe and you can solve the world’s problems. Or something like that.-
This last time around I used brown rice flour to dredge the meat in, after learning with a fried chicken experiment that it makes the most crispy, amazing crust on things. I’ll tell you about the chicken another day, but in the mean time if you can get your hands on some of this flour you have to try it. Not only does it crisp up like a champ, but it lends the most lovely nuttiness to anything it’s in. So, so tasty.
Mrs. Cadi’s Beef Stew
Makes a nice big pot, serves about 6-8 hungry folks
1 1/2 lbs. of beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized hunks
1/2 cup of brown rice flour, for dredging
Paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper for seasoning your flour and your stew
1 large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
About a half pound of potato: either one big one cut into 1/2″ cubes, or red potatoes cut into 1/2″ cubes, or fingerling (my favorite) cut into bite sized pieces
About a half a bottle of red wine (save the good stuff for drinking with dinner, please)
1 14 oz. can of double strength beef stock, or cups of homemade/boxed stock reduced to 1 1/2 cups
A bay leaf
Canola or olive oil (I use canola because it has a higher smoke point)
Wash and chop all of your veggies and set aside.
In a large bowl or food safe plastic bag, combine your flour and spices. Be generous with your spices here, as this is the only seasoning the meat is going to get before cooking. I use about 3/4 teaspoon of each of my listed spices with the exception of the pepper, and I use about a 1/2 teaspoon. I know, lots, but it’s worth it. Toss in your meat hunks and stir to coat them.
Heat up a large heavy bottomed soup pot over medium high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add the meat pieces to the pan one at a time, being sure to shake off the excess flour before dropping them in. Sear your meat pieces in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Remove your meat cubes to a bowl and set aside, continuing to brown until all of the pieces are seared. Add more oil as you need it. Don’t, however, throw out that flour mixture.
Lower the heat on the pan to about medium or just a bit below. Add another small splash of oil to the pan, and then add your carrots, onion and celery. Saute until your veggies begin to soften, scraping up the crusty brown bits (called fond) as you go. When your veggies are softened add your meat back in, as well as the beef broth, red wine, bay leaf and a dash or two of worcestershire. Cover leaving the lid akimbo, lower the heat to a simmer, and let ‘er go for a good hour. Pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out.
So let’s get back to that flour mixture. Take about 1/4 cup of it and put it in a jar with a tight fitting lid, and add about 1/2 cup of water to it. Replace the lid and shake like the dickens, and pour it into the pot, stirring to combine. Let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes to marry those flavors a bit. Ladle in to bowls and serve with warm crusty buttered bread and a glass of hearty red wine (break out the good stuff, you have my permission).