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warming trends

Recipe: italian-style beef and porcini stew

We check the weather forecasts and the weather outside of our windows all the time. Is it snowing? Is it going to snow? How much? Will it be warm and then cold? What direction is the wind coming from? What are the road conditions? We have to pay attention to these things, not just for our own recreational purposes, but because travel in Boulder Canyon can get downright dangerous when it snows heavily (this can happen during upslope events when the wind blows up the mountains from the flats) or when the snow hits a warm ground and then the temperature drops resulting in powdery snow on top of a slick of ice. The latter happened on Thursday. It took us 90 minutes instead of the nominal 30 minutes to get to Boulder because there were two accidents in the canyon.

which is why we prefer to stay in the mountains when it snows (iphone)

The same weather that can cause so much stress on the road or in town can bring a lot of joy to those of us who love it in the mountains. But it was short-lived as the weekend was warm and windy. They say the snow will be back soon. I hope so. I plan to be ready for it with this heady, hearty stew full of beef, porcini mushrooms, vegetables, herbs, and wine.

basil, tomato paste, pearl onions, bay leaf, rosemary, carrot, celery, garlic, grapeseed oil, red wine, dried porcini mushrooms, salt, pepper, onion, pancetta, beef chuck, diced tomatoes

soak the porcinis in hot water (save the liquid!)

That’s a long list of ingredients, but the prep is what takes the most effort. Once the prep is completed, the cooking is pretty straightforward and then the oven time is just you doing other things while the oven does its job. As with most recipes, but especially for the ones with a lot of ingredients, I think mise en place is essential for avoiding mistakes and reducing any heavy swearing in the kitchen. When you drain your porcinis, make sure to save the liquid and give it a pass through a fine-meshed sieve to catch any non-mushroom particles. Also, peeling pearl onions is pretty time-consuming. That was the first thing that made me think they weren’t worth the trouble.

porcini liquid, cubed beef, porcini mushrooms, onion, garlic, celery, pancetta, carrot, pearl onions

fry the pancetta

season the beef with salt and pepper

sear the beef on all sides

My pancetta did not give up much grease at all, so I had to add some grapeseed oil before sautéing the vegetables. That worked just fine. And while I was shopping for the ingredients to make this recipe, I discovered that my local Whole Foods carries an organic tomato paste that is packed in BPA-free glass jars (Bionaturae). That makes me happy.

sauté the vegetables

add mushrooms, rosemary, tomato paste, bay leaf, garlic

pour in the wine

when the liquid has reduced by half, add the porcini liquid

Once you’re done cooking on the range, the stew gets transferred to the oven to braise. I started out searing and sautéing in a stainless steel stock pot because I like the browning I get on that surface better. But when it was time to put the whole thing in the oven, I transferred everything to my Dutch oven which has a larger surface area. Crumple a sheet of parchment paper and then flatten it out before setting it directly on top of the stew. The reason for crumpling the parchment is to make it easier to grab.

adding the beef and the juices

ready for the oven

set the parchment on the stew (don’t let edges hang outside of the pot

Now that the stew is braising in the oven, there are only a few things left for you to do. After an hour, add the pearl onions. After another 30 minutes, stir in the tomatoes. About 30 minutes after I added the tomatoes, our power went out. It wasn’t a flicker or any of the usual shenanigans, it was out for a few hours. So I hoped that my stew would ride out the residual heat from the oven. Honestly, I don’t think it was enough time because the beef was a little on the tough side for my liking. Recipes like this should have falling-apart tender beef.

adding pearl onions

diced tomatoes

stirring in the basil at the end

It tasted fine, although I immediately knew what I would alter in the next incarnation. First off, it’s going to braise a lot longer until the beef is super tender. I’ll have to send a note to my energy company. Second… NO PEARL ONIONS. Not only are they a pain in the ass to peel (each.little.freaking.onion) but I do not like them. There, I said it. I’ll use regular yellow onions instead. I’m also going to increase the ratio of vegetables to meat because it was just so much beef – more than I wanted in each spoonful. And I think a stew like this deserves to be cooked with a better red wine than a two buck chuck. But it’s a nice stew despite all of the modifications I want to make to it. It’s just going to become awesomer next time.

definitely serve with some good bread

garnish with basil

Italian-style Beef and Porcini Stew
[print recipe]
from Fine Cooking

3 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
2 oz. thick cut bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
kosher salt to taste (about a teaspoon)
fresh ground pepper
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped (I’d increase this to 3)
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped (I’d increase this to 2)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste (I really like Bionaturae which is organic, BPA-free)
2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 1/2 cups of hot water until soft, then strained (save the liquid) and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 dried bay leaf
1 cup dry red wine (I’d double this)
3 cups peeled pearl onions (I would prefer to replace this with a large yellow onion, coarsely chopped and cooked with the other onion)
28 oz. chopped tomatoes (I would double this amount)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

Preheat the oven to 325°F and set the rack 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the oven. Pat the beef dry. In a Dutch oven, cook the pancetta over medium heat, stirring until it is browned, but not crisp. This will take about 6-8 minutes. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel to drain, but leave the grease in the pan. Season the beef with salt and pepper and mix to coat. Brown the beef in the pan over medium-high heat, turning the beef over to make sure it is brown on all sides (about 10 minutes total). Remove the beef to a bowl. Leave 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan. If you don’t have enough fat, add grapeseed oil until you have about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan.

Sauté the onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat with a pinch of salt and pepper until soft (about 5-6 minutes). Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, porcini mushrooms, rosemary, and bay leaf. Cook until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes), then add the pancetta and the red wine. Get a spatula on the bottom of the pan to dissolve any browned bits into the liquid (it’s got all the flavor!). Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. When the liquid has reduced by 50% (about 5-8 minutes), add the porcini mushroom liquid. Return the contents to a boil and add the beef and any juices from the beef. Lower the heat until the stew is simmering.

Crumple a piece of parchment paper that is as big as the Dutch oven. Flatten the paper and place it on the stew in the pan (you crumple it so it is easy to grab). Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for an hour. After an hour, if you are using pearl onions, add those and then bake another 30 minutes, otherwise, let the stew go for another 30 minutes without adding pearl onions. After the 30 minutes, add the tomatoes and bake until the beef is fork tender (I’d give it at least another 90 minutes). Degrease the stew by setting some paper towels on the top to soak up the grease. Mine didn’t have any grease, so I skipped that step. Stir in the basil. Serves 5-6.

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14 nibbles at “warming trends”

  1. Kath the Cook says:

    Sounds delish. I’ve made “foodie” recipes where they’ve given the OK to use frozen pearl onions (if you like them that is). much easier.

  2. Trish says:

    what is the purpose of the parchment? I saw Jamie Oliver do this once and was curious.

  3. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    This sounds incredible. I have a thing for porcinis. I made a porcini lasagne for Valentine’s Day that I’ll post soon. He was happy with his steak as I was with my porcinis!

  4. Pam Kelly says:

    YUMMMMM!!!. Thank you. Perfect for a cold day.

  5. joey @ 80 breakfasts says:

    I love slow cooked everything! And I’m from the tropics so you can just imagine the sacrifices…

  6. Stephen Andrew says:

    Trish, I think probably to cover the stew from drying out while not creating steam like the lid of the Dutch oven would. Sort of a ‘protected braise’ :)
    This looks sooo good. I love the yellow onion idea. I think if I make it I might add fennel and raish with the tomatoes. Braised radishes are woefully unloved and I think this is the perfect vessel for them! Yum!

  7. April Nicole says:

    This looks sooo yummy!!! I just wanted to say hi because I am always on your blog in my 3rd class…. I am senior in high school and to past the time in this class (I have a free period!) I come up here to look at yummy the foods and cooking it is even better! lol I love love your website!

  8. Manisha says:

    I’m not sure if you did this but the quickest way to peel pearl onions is put a pot of water to boi, quickly cut off the tip of each onion as the water boils, drop in boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain, and then squeeze near the root. It pops right out. There is some wastage but much less than when you try to peel each one individually. [says the gal who pickles pearl onions and loves dropping them into her sambar] :-D

  9. Laurel says:

    What Manisha said about blanching the pearl onions! That said, if you don’t like them, why bother? But maybe, if you’re able sometime, you could try substituting little cippolini to see if they appeal more to you. Perhaps even whole shallots? I say this because although I have never had a stew with little onions, now that it’s mentioned it seems like a good idea, because I do like the way very small onions retain some more texture in a long-cooked dish. It is different from a chopped onion.

    On the third hand, a stew with chopped onions tastes perfectly good too. And this one looks absolutely delicious apart from the question of onions!

  10. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    Mmm this looks so delicious right now! I have been eating Paleo recently and this would be a great addition to my repertoire.

  11. mjskit says:

    What a comforting bowl of goodness!! I’m sure that you get a burst of flavor with every bite!

  12. jenyu says:

    Kath – good tip. I probably won’t use pearl onions in the future, but that’s handy for anyone wanting a shortcut. Thanks!

    Trish – according to Paula Wolfert, it helps to regulate the moisture level and let the food braise in a small amount of liquid. It also avoids the steam-condensation-drip cycle when you just have a lid.

    Abbe – porcinis are heavenly!

    Pam – you’re welcome!

    joey – awwww! xo

    Stephen – fennel sounds like a lovely addition. I’ve never braised radished before – will keep that in mind!

    April – thank you :)

    Manisha – good to know and thanks for the tip. I probably won’t use it, but perhaps it could be handy for others!

    Laurel – I’ve had cippolini onions before and love them. Don’t know why I had such a dislike for the pearl onions because I really like onions in general. I think that sweetness and crunch was not desirable for me. I prefer the stewed onions cooked to almost a mush :)

    Brandon – good on ya!

    mjskit – it packs quite a punch!

  13. Emily Klein says:

    Made this today and just downed three bowls. Outstanding!!

  14. Eileen says:

    Just made this tonight and it was wonderful. The meat just melted in my mouth. Thanks for another wonderful recipe Jenn. You knocked it out of the park once again.

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