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Scrumptious Spring Stew: Rich in color, Deep in Flavor

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring is a super time of the year to put together a beef stew brimming with vegetables like new potatoes, carrots, green beans and peas. Even radishes, crisped to a golden brown, can be added to a spring stew, along with fresh herbs and robust gravy-making liquids, such as red wine and dark stout beer. Bread, particularly biscuits, is useful for soaking up stew's luscious gravy and perfect for savoring gravy to the last drop. And, should the biscuits outlast the stew, save the biscuits for dessert -- the perfect platform for fresh strawberries, luscious layered between clouds of sweetened whipped cream. The pleasures of spring are just starting to unfold and it only gets better from here. Events like Easter, Mother's Day, graduations and weddings are being planned and menus for these events considered. Nourishing, economical stew, typically thought of as homey, comfort food, can be worked into menus for many of these occasions, especially because stew can be made ahead of time and re-heated just before serving. A well-made stew makes it own statement and this one says, spring -- rich in color, deep in flavor -- spring.

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Photo By Sue Ade
Photo By Sue Ade
Stews, rich with the flavors of fresh herbs and spring vegetables, like new potatoes, carrots and green beans, are delicious, especially when made a day ahead of serving.

1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

2 pounds stew beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 scallions, minced with some of the green part

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup red wine

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 (10.5-ounce) cans condensed beef consomm

1 (10.5-ounce) can condensed French onion soup

1 cup Guinness stout

1/8 cup fresh minced thyme* or 1 tablespoon dried

1 tablespoon fresh minced oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons butter

3 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

2 cups peeled carrots, cut into 2 1/2 inch pieces

2 handfuls fresh green beans, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half

1 small bunch radishes, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half, optional

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons flour mixed with 1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon Bisto, optional, see note following recipe

Fresh minced parsley for garnish

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the water, wine, ketchup and Worcestershire; set aside. Season the beef lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add half the beef, raising the heat to high. (As the beef cooks it will appear to be boiling in its own liquid, but keep it going -- the beef will start to brown once the liquid evaporates.) Cook, turning the beef until the pieces are browned on all sides, about 6 to 8 minutes. (If beef is overbrowning, lower the heat to medium.) Remove the beef from the pot with a slotted spoon to a bowl. With the heat turned to high (if it has been lowered), add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot. When the oil is hot, cook the rest of the beef. Once the second batch of beef is browned, remove it to the bowl with the first batch. Lower heat to medium and saut the garlic and scallions in the beef renderings, scraping the bits of beef that are stuck to the bottom of the pan, until softened. Return beef to pan, stirring constantly to coat the beef with the garlic and scallions. Remove pan from heat and set aside. In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt butter with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Raise heat to medium-high and add potatoes and carrots to the pan, shaking pan to rotate vegetables in the butter/oil mixture until golden brown. Lower heat and cook until vegetables are almost cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Toss in radishes and beans just until lightly crisped; set aside. Return pot with the beef to medium heat. Stir in reserved water/wine/ketchup/Worcestershire mixture, consomm, soup, Guinness, thyme, oregano and bay leaves; bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Partially cover pot with a lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 45 minutes. When meat is tender, gently stir in vegetables, cooking for 15 minutes. Stir in peas, cooking 10 minutes more. To thicken liquid, stir flour/water mixture to reconstitute, then blend into stew, simmering until thickened. Add Bisto, if using, gently stirring to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves and garnish with minced parsley before serving. Makes 6 servings. *Kitchen Ade Note: When using fresh thyme, be sure to remove leaves from stem before mincing.

Best Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup cold butter cut in pieces

3/4 cup whole buttermilk, plus more for brushing on top of biscuits

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and soda in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Do not overprocess. Add the buttermilk and pulse just until dough is moistened and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to combine, being careful not to overwork dough. With hands, pat dough to a thickness of 1 inch. Cut out rounds of dough with a floured 2 3/4 inch biscuit cutter. (Do not twist cutter as you cut out biscuits.) Place dough rounds in a lightly greased round 10-inch cake pan with sides of the dough touching one another. (Baking biscuits close together help them to rise higher and keeps the edges softer.) Brush tops with buttermilk. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes about 8 biscuits.



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