Waking up was brutal this Sunday morning. We knew it was frigidly cold outside; the dog didn’t even want to go out. The skies were heavy and dark and the mountains were nowhere in sight. Skiing was out of the question as the temp is somewhere near 5 degrees and the wind was whipping. Really good coffee was helpful as we settled into a cozy morning indoors. Pondering our choices for the day, it was clear that a wood burning fire, a good read, & something that smelled amazing in the oven would be crucial. There was clearly no other choice than to spend the morning in the kitchen making a big, spicy, hearty beef stew. We had a heated discussion about what kind of stew to produce. Glen was petitioning for a straight up, rich Yankee style stew but was overruled as I needed something spicier. Since going to the store was out of the question (luckily I had bought stew meat the day before), so a quick search of the frig produced some root vegetables, a poblano pepper, and a jalapeno. A peek in the freezer was smart as we had some roasted tomatoes leftover from an earlier pasta creation. Short on red wine, we opted for Corona as our braising liquid along with some chicken stock. Sounds like a weird list of ingredients, but it came together wonderfully. The house smelled incredible as it simmered away all afternoon and once topped with a spicy cornmeal dumpling, this stew hit the spot. A snappy name for this hybrid beef stew alluded us, so we’ll just call it “Spicy Sunday Beef Stew” and share it with you here.
Spicy Sunday Beef Stew Recipe the list looks long, but it is Sunday, so take your time and chop away. As always, we get everything ready before we start the actual cooking so it flows smoothly. Prep your stewing meat, chop the veggies and get all the liquids measured and ready to go before you turn on the oven & heat your Dutch oven.
To prepare the beef for your stew:
2 lbs of stew meat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil for sauteing
1 tablespoon butter for sauteing
Chop all and have them ready to go in your heated Dutch Oven
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 rutebaga, peeled and chopped
3 red skinned potatoes, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 poblano pepper*, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ cup roasted tomatoes (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
* of course you can use canned green chiles, but you just can’t achieve the same texture, smokiness and flavor of roasting a fresh poblano over your gas burner & peeling off the charred skin. Remove the seeds and chop. We throw roasted poblano peppers in everything!
Add to the softened vegetables in order:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 bottle of corona beer
1 cup of crushed tomato
4 cups of chicken or beef broth
1 tablespoon molasses
1 bay leaf
The first step begins with placing the meat, olive oil, garlic and pepper into a bowl. Massage the seasonings into the stew meat with your hands; really get in there!. Wash your hands very well. Allow the cubes of meat to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes while you begin to chop the veggies. In a small shallow bowl, mix the flour, salt and paprika together and place next to the meat cubes.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Take out your heavy Dutch oven and place the pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter and heat until it is bubbling. Drop half of the meat cubes into the seasoned flour, toss them lightly, and place them into the hot fat. Sear each cube until lightly browned on the edges and turn them over with tongs. Remove the seared meat to another bowl and repeat with the remaining meat cubes. Set the meat aside and turn the heat to low.
Add the chopped root vegetables and sauté them over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, peppers, roasted tomatoes if using, and the thyme and stir for 3 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium and add the bottle of Corona beer and chili powder. Bring the beer to a boil and let cook for 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and let them bubble away with the beer for a few minutes. Add the stock, the molasses (a tiny sweetness does amazing things for the flavor) and the bay leaf.
Place the seared meat cubes back into the pan and give it a gentle stir. Scrape any juices from the bowl that held the meat cubes, that’s good stuff to add to the pan. A great chef, CMC Jeff Gabriel, always told us to top any braise with a sheet of parchment paper that is cut to fit right over the liquid before placing the lid on the pan. Pop the pan in the oven and set the timer for 2 ½ hours. Now there is nothing to do except curl up in front of the fire and start our books!
When the timer sounds, pull the pot out of the oven and take a peek. The liquid should be thickened and the meat should be fork tender. This would be a fine time to dive in and serve up a bowl, but we have grander plans for this spicy stew. While the stew rests on the stove, we whip up a little cornmeal dumpling batter to drop on top of the stew. The stew will go back into the oven to brown up the dumplings, so leave it on but turn the temp to 350.
Cornmeal Dumplings Recipe
¾ cup cornmeal
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted.
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Toss the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl and have a small portion scoop or spoon standing by. Add the milk, melted butter, cheese and herbs to the bowl and very gently fold into a batter. Do not over mix or your dumplings will feel tough. Immediately drop the dumpling batter into the hot stew with space in between each plop (they will grow as they cook). Pop the pan back into the oven without the lid and let the hot stew liquid steam the dumplings on the bottom while they brown up slightly on the top. Cook the dumplings for 10-12 minutes, remove from the oven and dish it up. Some chopped thyme or parsley is a pretty garnish if you have it handy. Have a Corona with lime ready to go and devour!
If you are making the stew in advance, just reheat the liquid on the stovetop before adding the dumpling batter. You may have to add a little more stock if the stew liquid has thickened too much.