Six Days, Three Stews, One Happy Belly
5 Oct 2006

Day One Plan an enormous British going away bash for friends moving to London for a year, ala Rory and Logan on last year's Gilmore Girls. Day Two Shop for party fixings, making sure you buy far more than you can actually make anything with and making far more than anyone could actually eat. Especially stuff for cornish pasties. Day Three Host. Eat. Drink. Generally Par-Tay. Destroy any photographic evidence. Fail to sleep. Decide to clean the house until 5am. Day Four Take two four Advil, groan, and go back to bed. Wonder how you can blame SO for you doing that shot of Tequila. Decide you can't, but leave rest of cleaning the house for him anyway. Day Five Deal with fridge full of leftovers. Wonder what to do with another two pounds of beef, and 8 neatly bagged up vegetables. Start flipping through cookbooks, and find Boeuf a la Ni?ɬßoise (Braised Beef Stew with Red Wine, Tomatoes, Olives and Buttered Noodles) recipe in the amazing Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Drool. Preheat oven and set up the camera. Feast.

Have seconds. Look in the pot. Shake head. Package up a quart of stew leftovers. Day Six Get latest Donna Hay magazine and pine for the lovely trio of pot pies on the cover. Remember stew. Make a quick shortcrust from Donna's New Food Fast and feast yet again.
Cornish Pasties I'm not British, but I did grow up eating Cornish Pasties which I always thought of as a real treat because I got to customize my own dinner. Unlike stews which were packed full of "vegetable pollution" as I liked to call it, my each member of my family built their own pasties... my brother left out the onions, my step-sister went for no meat and I always nixed the carrots. We'd mark each pasty with our initial so we'd know whose was whose. My family pasties were made with a rough pastry, but I went for a shortcrust this time, which worked beautifully. Also, since I made these ahead of time for the party, there was no customization... just meat or veggie, marked with an M or a V if you knew to look. To make 2 meal sized beef pasties 1 Shortcrust Pastry (see below) 1 cup steak or other good beef, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes 4 new potatoes, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces 1 small onion, finely chopped 1 small kohl rhabi (or turnip), chopped into 1/4 inch cubes (optional) 1 carrot, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds 2 T Kale or spinach, chopped (optional) thyme salt and pepper Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the pastry ball in half, and make form into two balls. Wrap and refrigerate for 5 minutes. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Roll out each pastry ball into a round, about 1/4" thick. Add 1/2 of the mixture to the center of each round. Brush the edges with egg wash, and then fold the pastry in half over the filling. Crimp the edges together, pressing along the edge with your fingers. Brush the outside with the egg wash, and cut a few steam vents in the top of the pastry. Place the pasties on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350F and bake another 40 minutes or until they are a rich golden brown. Pasties can be eaten immediately, or wrapped in foil for lunch. The crust should help keep the stew warm throughout the morning (although I've never actually tried this). This recipe is also very good without the meat.
Boeuf a la Nicoise (Adapted from Sunday Supper at Lucques) This is a fantastic stew, although I did make a few changes based on ingredients I had on hand. I switched out lmons for the orange zest, left out the olives, added kohl rahbi since I had it, and used pork instead of beef or veal stock. I also had to scrimp on the marinate time, from overnight to about 4 hours. Still, I was very pleased with the end result and Cameron, who "isn't a much of a stew person" went back for a second serving. I'm sticking with the portion sizes from the original recipe, since I can't remember the exact measurements that I used when I made a smaller version. 3 lbs boneless beef (short ribs, beef stew meet, steak) cut into bite sized chunks 1 T black pepper 3 T thyme (preferably fresh) 6 cloves garlic, crushed Zest of 1 lemon (reserve the lemon) 5 T olive oil 1 cup onion, diced 1/2 cup fennel, diced 1/2 cup carrot, diced 1 bay leaf 3/4 cup San Marzano canned tomatoes 8 whole fresh tomatoes (preferably Italian) 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 2 1/2 cup red wine 4 cups stock (beef or pork) 5 to 6 large leaves of basil 3/4 pound pasta (Tagliatelle or Papparadelle) 6 T butter Salt and Pepper to taste Add the beef, pepper, 1 T of thyme, garlic and lemon zest to a large ziplock bag (use two if necessary). Close and shake to mix up all the good stuff. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours). Remove the meat 45 minutes before cooking. Add 1 T of course sea salt. Preheat oven to 325F. Heat a large Dutch Oven on high for 3 minutes, and add 3 T of olive oil. Heat for a couple more minutes until just before the smoking point. Then, add the meat to the pan to sear (save the garlic and lemon zest). You need to give the pieces some space, so you will likely need to work in batches. Let it sit on one side about 2 minutes, and then flip to brown on the other side. Remove the meat from the pan, and set aside on a baking sheet. When the meat is done, reduce heat to medium and add the onion, fennel, carrot and kohl rahbi. Stir the vegetables, loosening the crust from the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme, bay leaf and any remaining lemon zest and garlic from the meat mixture. Cook until the vegetables are caramelized, about 6 to 8 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the balsamic and reduce to a glaze. Then, add the red wine and reduce again. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling rapidly, add the meat to the pot and cover the pot with aluminum foil and then a tight fitting lid (the original recipe has you cover the pot first with plastic wrap, then foil and then a heavy lid... but I was out of plastic wrap so left that out). Move the pot to the oven, and braise for 3 hours.
In the meantime, cut the whole tomatoes in half, and place, cut side up, in a baking dish that has 2 T of olive oil on the bottom. Top with a bit of salt, pepper and the basil, and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Place the baking dish in the oven (the same as the meat), and roast for about an hour and a half. (BTW - these tomatoes are a great start for an Italian tomato sauce too, as the slow roasting really brings out the sweetness... so expect to see this technique again sometime). After the 3 hours of braising, check the meat for tenderness. Press it with a fork, and it should almost fall apart. If it does, then it's ready. If not, continue cooking. When it's ready, remove from oven and uncover. Don't forget to remove the tomatoes too. Skim off any fat that rises to the top of the braising juices, and remove the bay leaf. Scoop out about two cups of the juices, and transfer them to a large, heavy saute pan and heat to medium low. Heat the oven to 400F. Then, make the pasta. Bring a large pot to a boil, and cook according to the directions on your pasta. Return the meat to the oven for about 15 minutes. When the pasta is ready and blanched and well drained, add it to the saute pan. Bring to a low simmer. Stir in the butter and season to taste. Remove the meat from the oven. Serve family style by moving the pasta to a large warm platter. Top with the meat, more of the braising juice and the roasted tomatoes. Garnish with a bit more fresh thyme.
Leftover Stew Pot Pies 1 Shortcrust Pastry (see below) Left over stew Anything else you want to throw in :-) Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out the pastry to about 1/8 inch thick, and cut to desired shapes... about a 1/4 inch greater than the diameter of your pot. Lie flat on parchment, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 5 minutes. Fill your dish with stew, and top with a bit more salt, pepper and some fresh herbs. I added more sage and thyme to the Boeuf a la Nicoise, and it was a great addition. Top with the pastry lid, and trim to fit. Press the edges with a fork to seal. You can also make a "potless" pot pie, which is basically like the pasties but uses cooked rather than raw ingredients. Just take a 5-inch round of pastry, and add about 2 tablespoons of the stew in the middle. Fold the pastry over, and pinch to seal the edges. Cut at least two vents in the top of the crust for steam. Brush the pastry with the egg wash. Place the pots on a parchment lined baking sheet (in case of spill over), and bake until the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Shortcrust Pastry - for Pasties and Pot Pie Lids (makes 1 9-inch crust, 2 meal sized pasties, or 2 to 4 pot pie lids depending on the size of the pot) I've always made pastry by hand with a pastry knife, but our friends (the ones that are moving to London) have lent me their food processor for the year, so I gave it a go on the pastry. Holy cow, does that make pastry a breeze. I could make pastry everyday with this beast. Of course, I'd gain about 50 lbs, so maybe that's not such a good idea. Anyway, this recipe in Donna Hay's New Food Fast is a great staple and can me made with or without a food processor... but the recipe in the book does use one. 2 cups flour 4 oz cold butter, cut into small cubes cold water 1 cube of ice egg wash (1 egg yolk plus 1 T of water, beaten together) Fill a glass with water, preferably distilled, and chill it more with ice. Set aside. Combine the flour and butter in a food processor or with a pastry knife until it looks like coarse crumbs. Don't over process. Start adding water in a little at a time. If using a food processor, do this while the motor is running. If making by hand, just add some, then mix, and repeat. You'll want to stop adding the water before you think you there is enough to prevent adding too much. If working by hand, this is when it starts clinging together just a little. Then, switch to using your fingers to work in the water. If it won't shape into a ball yet, you need a bit more water. When using a food processor, try pulsing as you add the water so you don't add to much. As soon as it just starts to form a dough ball, stop adding the water. Knead the dough lightly three or four times just to have it hold it's shape, and then cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Then, follow the remaining instructions for the recipes above. Technorati Tags: , ,


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