Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Name's Stew...Beef Stew

I relish the fact that when it's the beginning of the month again, meat returns to our house. I have missed it very much. Me and my family aren't even close to vegetarian, so the lack of meat is not fun for any of us. This time the experiment was finding a new place to get our meat. While the grocery store I normally shop at has okay meat, I am looking for better than okay. I want my family to eat well, to enjoy what we eat, not just eat so we aren't hungry. According to Jamie Oliver, the poorest people in the world can eat the best if they know how to cook. I agree. Why should I get meat that is just okay from the grocery store when I can go to the local butcher and get good or even great meat? Never again, grocery store! Never again! I might have paid just a bit more for the meat at the butcher, but the quality highly outweighed the cost difference.

I bought a large roast that I knew I could get several meals out of, and am very glad I did, especially for this dish. I cut up half of the raw roast for stew. Normally I find that stew meat is tough and chewy and not very flavorful, but this, this was delicious! It was tender and juicy, and tasted like actual beef! I would seriously consider doing this all of the time, and I probably will. 

Now, I know that it's the middle of summer, but I need to make things that will stick with us for several hours, and that we can eat off of for a while. Thus, Stew...Beef Stew. There was one ingredient in this that I had never used before, whey. I started making my own cheese this week (more on that some other time), and was left with almost a gallon of whey. I can't waste things. I just can't, so I had to find a way to use this whey (yes, I know). I read on a few different places a bunch of stuff to make with whey, and the most common was to use it instead of broth is soups and stews. Frankly, I was nervous. No broth or stock in a stew? It could be disastrous. But it wasn't. It was heavenly.

A few notes from my experiment:
1) Cut up your meat, throw it in a bowl, toss in flour, shake-easiest way to dredge your meat. It gets it coated evenly in about 15 seconds instead of 15 minutes. It was stupidly easy, and I can't believe that I'd never thought of it before.
2) Whey gives the liquid part of the stew a very pleasing back of the throat sweet after taste. It's different, but oh so good!
3) I like cutting my own stew meat because I can choose how much I want to use and not have to worry about having too little. And I can make the pieces just the right size, not too big and not too small. Hello, Goldie Locks.

Stew...Beef Stew

Makes a big pot worth

2 Tbsp Olive oil
Beef roast- cubed (I used probably 2 lbs.)
1/8 Cup flour
1 Onion- diced
3 Garlic cloves- minced
2 Quarts of Whey (or 2 quarts broth or stock)
2 Large carrots- chopped
4 Small potatoes- chopped
2 Ribs of celery- chopped
Lots and lots of different Italian herbs (Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, etc.)-roughly a tbsp of each
2 Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste

1) In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat your olive oil over low heat.
2) While oil is heating, dredge the beef in flour, then brown in the hot oil. It's okay if it looks like you are getting brown crusty stuff on the bottom of your pot. You want this to happen. It adds to the flavor of the stew. What you don't want is if it starts turning black or smelling like it's burning.
3) Add onion and garlic, and cook until soft.
4) When the onion and garlic is soft, slowly pour in the whey. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes to help the juices in the beef seep out into the stock.
5) Add the veggies, and give this a good stir.
6) Add in all of the herbs, and make sure to have fun with them. We prefer the Italian herbs for most things, but don't be afraid to go with something else-Indian or Mexican for example. You do want to make sure that you have a lot of whatever you put in, so be sure to taste as you go.
7) Turn the heat up to medium, cover, and allow to cook until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

This serves really well with hot biscuits. It can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer indefinitely. I would recommend reheating on the stove.

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