Saturday, January 25, 2014

Beef Stew II (serves 6)

We have had record low temperatures in the Northeast U.S. this winter.  This simple beef stew helped keep my tummy full and my house warm!  

You can use any type of cheap cut of beef for this stew.  This beef bottom round roast was available cheaper than the beef that was labeled "beef stew" at the grocery.  You can use other types of meat for this stew that are available to you.

I heard about filé powder when I first traveled to New Orleans (LA) many years ago.  It is considered an herb made from ground sassafras tree leaves.  It is used in Cajun and Creole cooking to thicken soup and stew.  I have some available at home so I decided to use a little to thicken my stew.

2-3 Tbsp canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil
4 pounds beef bottom round roast,  trimmed off fat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 white onion, diced
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 celery sticks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
32 oz beef broth (low sodium, low fat)
6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 green plantain, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz button mushrooms, cut in half
2 bay leaves (optional)
3 sprigs of dried thyme (or 4-5 fresh)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Better Than Bouillon beef base, reduced sodium (optional)
1 tsp filé powder (optional)


1) Heat oil in a large pot (cast iron if you have one) over medium high heat.  Once the pot is hot add 1/2 of the beef and let it sear on each side.  It may take about 10 minutes to sear all of the meat.
2) Once all the meat is seared, return all of the meat in the pot.  Add onion, tomatoes and celery.  Let it all cook about 10 minutes.
3) Add beef broth, carrot, potatoes, plantain, mushrooms, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and beef base.  Cover the pot and let it cook in medium low heat for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is soft to your liking.  Add filé powder, stir and turn off heat.

*I like using my large cast iron pot for cooking stew or soup since it retains the heat well and saves energy. You can dredge the beef in all-purpose flour prior to searing.  This method will thicken your stew later.
*You can add other vegetables for your stew.  I saw some good looking green plantains at the market so I bought one to add to this stew.  The green plantain has similar texture to breadfruit or potatoes.
*If you do not have Better Than Bouillon beef base, reduced sodium you can omit it.  This beef base adds extra flavor to the stew.  You can make similar beef base if you have time.  
*I grew some herbs in my garden.  Before the weather got too cold I harvested all of my unused herbs, washed them well and let them air dry in my kitchen.  Once dried I bagged them to use during the winter months.  Thyme is a great herb for drying.
*You can serve this stew with pretty much anything.  I served this stew over egg noodles (pasta) and some blanched Chinese broccoli.

orchid I

orchid II

*These orchid photos came from my most recent photo shoot at the Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford, NH.  If you cannot escape to a tropical destination you can visit this place to view many of the plants for inspiration.  If you have even the slightest green thumb you can even purchase a few plants to take home and admire them longer.  The colorful flowers certainly brightened my cold and gray day!

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