holy cow. holy cow. the oh so lovely, so beautiful, so graceful, cow. people who know me well know that i LOVE cows. they are the friends (laura) and family (mom) who send thoughtful cards with great cows prancing across the front.

"we've moo-ved"

i have this collection of cow pictures– not the tacky, cheesy cow pictures of an overdone, distasteful kitchen– but artistic cows, mostly that are bright and colorful and full of life. susan, who is in many respects a second mother to me, gave me this AMAZING blue cow painting for my high school graduation. it is very special to me, so special, in fact, i don’t even have it hanging in my room! (my life’s been a bit transient as of late.)

pretty cow!

also, from cows comes great things. GRAND things like ICE CREAM (graeter’s, anyone?)! FROZEN YOGURT (original tang, anyone?)! COTTAGE CHEESE (nancy’s, anyone?)! CHEEEEESE!!!! OH the dairy-filled delights from the oh-so-holy cow.

but, dear friends, i have quite a news breaking tale for you. i, gwen marie meyer, disliker of most meats, especially beef and pork, critical cynic of the modern industrialized meat system, ardent advocate for plant and legume based diets… prepared, ate, and enjoyed beef stew last night for dinner.

….

you’re shocked, aren’t you. jaw-dropping, knee slapping, shocked. i anxiously await my father and brother’s response to such news– i’m sure i’ll be hearing about it for a long time. this is not to say i have any feeling of urgency about my next meal featuring said beef (except for leftovers, maybe, i imagine they will only get better with age). furthermore, this is not to say i ate very much of it (my bowl had only one chunk of stewed beef). i know better: a bowl of beef reminds me of my days on 2796 powell ave, when i would sneakily slip into the bathroom to spit the wad of meat into the toilet and flush that textural disaster away. i learned that trick after being caught and scolded one too many times for spitting similar wads of meat into my napkin.

beef

but the flavor, the depth, the smell, the character that beef gave the stew. HOLY COW!

the beef was environmentally up to my standards. unfortunately, though, i am embarrassed and ashamed to say, i don’t know the farmer from whom the meat came. last saturday, eastern market lacked the usual sustainable, beef-selling crew. and i had already committed myself to preparing a meal featuring beef after a trial run at canape cart, where i am now gainfully employed.

the stew

i think the smell is what really sealed the deal. that smell, lingering in my head from a day in the canape cart kitchen browning and braising short ribs, reverberated around up there long enough to convince me to make something of my own.

our feast

and so, i give you with no further ado, my beef stew.

gwen’s beef stew
*i made this recipe up– i think it’s pretty flexible and could go a lot of different ways. have fun with it!

1 1/2 pounds sustainably raised (preferably local) stewing beef
salt
pepper
oil for your pan
4 small onions (2 medium, 1 large), chopped
3 shallots, on the large side, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
4 leeks, rinsed and chopped, white and a little green parts
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
quart of tomatoes
red pepper flakes
cumin
paprika
cinnamon
bay leaf

1. preheat oven to 300.

2. pat dry meat with a paper towel. salt and pepper both sides.

3. in a heavy pot (my christmas present!!), heat enough oil to fully cover the bottom. once nearly smoking, add chunks of stewing beef, careful not to overcrowd the pan. brown meat, 1-2 minutes per side, and then remove and set aside. do this until all the chunks of meat is cooked. you will likely lower the temperature once the oil is hot, so as not to burn the meat.

4. with the leftover browned bits and remaining oil (adding more oil if needed), add the onions, cook for a minute or so, using a spoon to lift the browned bits from bottom of pan. then add carrots, leeks, celery, and garlic, over medium heat. cook down until everything starts to weep and soften, about 15 minutes or so.

5. add the red wine, and let the liquids steam out and reduce down, concentrating the flavor, about 10 minutes. then add vegetable broth and water. cook for another 5-10 minutes, then add tomatoes. (i would recommend adding tomatoes before broth, and seeing how much liquid comes from the tomatoes themselves. you might need more or less broth/water depending on the tomato juices. inconveniently, all of the summer 2010 canned tomatoes were not at my house…hence the simmering of the stew with broth/water first). don’t let the liquid boil, a gentle simmer is the goal. add sprinkles of herbs listed here, starting on the light side, so stew isn’t over spiced, adding gradually till you find your preferred flavor.

6. now, turn off the heat, and make sure the stew is not bubbling or trembling, but hot and calm. add the beef now, making sure to submerge it deeply within the stew and the juices. but a tight-fitting lid on your pot and put it in the oven. try not to let the liquid bubble at all for this part of the cooking process, it will just make the meat tough.

7. let the meat cook for a long time, i let mine go for 2-3 hours, until meat’s tender and you’re hungry.

8. dip yourself a bowl and enjoy!

and here, i give great thanks to the cows of the world. they make this life quite full and exciting, indeed.

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