Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beef Ragout with Merlot and Root Vegetables

Featured Ingredients: Crushed Tomatoes, Beef Broth

4:00 p.m. is the witching hour. It's the time when I start to figure what am a going to make for dinner.  It's when I might hit the recipe books or internet looking for something deliciously different.   It's when I might make last minute dashes to the store to pick up any stray ingredients that are missing.  If the ultimate decision is some form of stew, I need to start on it around 4:45 p.m. in order to get it on the table by 6:30 p.m. By throwing just a few simple ingredients (which you may already have on hand) into your magic kettle you can transform them into a silky, delicious stew with not too much toil and trouble.
The great thing about a ragout, stew, pot-au-feu, daube or whatever you want to call it is that it can be unique every time depending on what you throw into it.  You just need to follow some basic guidelines to serve a group of 6 to 8. 
About 1.5 lbs meat
About 4 cups of liquid (broth, wine, vegetable juice)
About 5 1/2 cups of vegetables (potatoes are a must as the starch helps thicken the liquid)
Onion and Garlic (for flavoring/do not count as part of the vegetables)
Herbs of choice
Salt and Pepper
Below is my result  using this ratio. What do you think of my title? It sounds so much fancier than Beef Stew. The final dish yields a silky, luscious and creamy-like sauce that merits a better descriptor.

Beef Ragout with Merlot and Root Vegetables
olive oil as needed
2 tbsps all purpose flour
1.34 lbs of beef stew meat cut in 1 inch pieces
1 3/4 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1 cup merlot wine
3 cups low-sodium beef broth (1 15 oz. can yields a little less than two cups - so would need two cans)
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp dried marjoram leaves
1/2 tsp oregano
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp salt
2 cups carrots sliced
1 cup parsnips sliced
2 cups potatoes in 1 inch pieces (russet not recommended as they break down to easily - all purpose, red, yukon work)
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 5.5 quart dutch oven over medium high heat.  Season beef and place into a plastic bag with the flour. "Shake it Up!"  In two batches sear beef on almost all sides.  I don't brown the meat all the way, as I find the fond or brown bits become black bits on the bottom of my dutch oven by the end of the second batch. Remove meat to separate plate. This is how brown I go:

Lower heat to medium, add additional oil if needed and sautee onion for about 3 minutes and garlic for another minute until soft and fragrant and starting to brown.  Remove to plate with meat.

Add merlot, bring to boil and reduce by half.  I'm not a drinker so these are great for cooking.  I don't have to waste a whole bottle. Each bottle equals about 1 cup of wine. It adds better flavor than the cooking wines you find in your grocery stores.  As the cardinal rule is do not cook with something you would not drink by itself.

Return meat, onion and garlic to dutch oven and add broth, tomatoes, herbs, and salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a lower simmer.  Simmer for an hour.  Be sure to check after a few minutes to make sure that your ragout isn't rapidly boiling and adjust temperatures so that it stays at a slow and steady simmer.

Cut up remaining vegetables and set aside.  Keep potatoes in cold water.

After 1 hour add remaining vegetables and bring to a boil again, then reduce to a low simmer.  Simmer until vegetables are tender about a 1/2 hour.

Beef Ragout with Merlot and Root Vegetables
I cook stew on my range top vs. the oven. The great thing about one pot meal like this is although they take some time to develop the flavor you don't have to babysit it much and can clean up and multi-task in the meantime.  This leaves the oven free if you want to bake some biscuits to go with the stew or even a pie using prepared crust. If you have more time, have two ovens, or aren't baking anything else you can put the dutch oven in your bigger oven at 350F and simmer for the hour.  Then add the vegetables and continue for another 1/2 hour. 


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