rainy day beef stew

Heat apologists would argue that the endless Los Angeles summer, with its ‘dry’ heat, is infinitely preferable to the summer just about anywhere else.  However, I still wilt on 95℉ in my second floor AC-less apartment, and furthermore am not especially fond of the sun.  (Why am I living here again?  Oh yeah, cause it’s awesome).  In any case, I welcome the Long and Harsh Winter that is upon us, meaning of course fairly temperate weather that everyone still complains about.  That includes, yes, a few days of actual weather, as in clouds and rain and what not.

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For me it’s perfect, because I get to pull out one of the forlorn, forgotten sweaters from my closet and pretend I’m a peasant in the English countryside (that’s what everyone does when it’s raining, right?).  So I decided to invite some of my lovely friends over and make them a hearty beef stew.  My typical exhaustive research on the subject yielded this:

Why hello, Felicity Cloake!  This is a very helpful and clear video that you made.  And you are so cute with your accent and all your little sayings.  Yes, I saw that you have a ring on your finger.  I mean, you didn’t have to show it so many times.  It’s like a girl who keeps dropping references to her boyfriend.  I GET IT, Felicity, you’re taken.  We’re just beef stew friends.  I’m going to repost your beef stew recipe, because that’s the sort of thing beef stew friends do.  Because it’s stew, a comfort-y, friendly dish, not a date-y romantic dish at all.  Something you have with friends.  Just friends.*

*I’m in love with you, Felicity.

English Beef Stew

2lb  beef chuck (shoulder)
2 tbsp flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
oil or butter, for frying
2 onions, sliced
2 cups or so beef stock
300ml  or so beer (stout or ale)
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky slices
2 small turnips or 1 Rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks

For the dumplings:
1 cup plain flour or more as needed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, diced
Small bunch of chives and parsley, finely chopped

1. Trim the beef of its outer sinew and cut into large chunks.  Being new to this whole ‘meat’ thing, I had no idea what I was doing in this step.  I tried to cut away most of the hard, white part.  Because that’s fat, and that’s not good to cook with?  Right?  Who knows.  Cut the beef into ‘egg sized’ pieces.  Hopefully by the end they’ll be tender enough to cut with a spoon, so bigger pieces are fine.  Cut against the grain, if you can figure out what that is.  Wash your heads AT LEAST 1 million times during this process.

2. Toss with the seasoned flour to coat. Heat a dutch oven on a medium-high flame and add a knob of dripping or butter, or a couple of tablespoons of oil.  A “knob”!  Oh Felicity, I’ll cherish these moments forever.

Brown the meat in batches, making sure there is always enough butter.  Not too many at one time.  Remove to a bowl.  I did the onions and meat *at the same time* because I’m kray kray.

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3. Once all the meat is browned, add some more butter to the pan and cook the onions until soft and slightly browned. Add them to the beef and then pour in a little stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Add the beef and onions, the rest of the stock and the stout, season, and add the herbs. Bring to the boil, then partially cover, turn down the heat, and simmer gently for two hours.  I used an Irish stout I found at whole foods.

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3. Add the carrots and rutabaga (I used a rutabaga  yo), and simmer for about another hour, until the meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon.  You can leave it overnight at this point if you like, or just eat it, because you have fucking guests.

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4. Those are dumplings, which you make by sifting the flour into a bowl and adding the rest of the ingredients and just enough cold water to bring it together into a dough. Roll it into 6 dumplings and add these to the stew.  I would actually push the dumplings all the way down so they boil.  They are sort of “fiddly” to quote Felicity.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had a stew with dumplings before, so I didn’t quite know what they should be like.  Anyway:pPartially cover and simmer for 25 minutes, then check the seasoning of the gravy.

The stew was awesome.  Felicity doesn’t mess around with her stews.  My friends had their fill and then I sent them back into the shivering cold and rain.  The end.

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