We all lead busy lives today and I am no exception. I work full-time, volunteer and have the usual home and family obligations. And while I may have visions of recipes to make dancing around my brain like sugar plum fairies, the simple truth is that after a day at work, coming home to cook is not always at the top of my list. So meals that I can make ahead of time when I am feeling more ambitious about cooking are always welcome. Not only can you make this dish ahead, but it actually tastes even better on the second day! It also freezes well, so you can make a big batch and freeze it in individual portions for those nights when you want something satisfying and comforting but just don’t feel like cooking. You can get more complicated and cook up some wide noodles or rice, quinoa or any other grain you like. But for the easiest and simplest – just grab some crusty bread, make a quick green salad if you are feeling ambitious and you can sit down and sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh as you sip that Malbec or Cab and take your first forkful. A job well done!
Beef Stufato – Yields 4 servings (can be doubled or halved)
2 pounds stew beef cut into 1.5 inch chunks
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1.5 – 2 cups dry red wine (I used a Malbec this time. NEVER EVER use a wine that you wouldn’t drink! If for some reason you can’t or won’t use wine, you can substitute a good quality beef stock.)
1 cup canned (actually I use tomatoes from a box these days) Italian plum tomatoes with their liquid – diced or strained
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon each – dried basil and dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces mushrooms sliced medium thick (optional)
Note: Stufato is very simple. I make a slightly more involved beef stew, with carrots, peas, pearl onions and turnip which I’ll include when the weather gets a bit cooler. This is simple, the amount of active work-time is short and the result is delicious.
Heat oil in a heavy Dutch Oven over medium high heat. Add meat in batches and brown on all sides. Make sure that the meat is dry and do not crowd the pan or the meat won’t brown. Remove meat with tongs or a slotted spoon to a bowl and keep on the side until ready to add back.
Add the onion and brown sugar and saute until the onion begins to get limp and translucent. Stir in one cup of the wine. Add all remaining ingredients.Reduce the heat to simmer, cover tightly and cook for 1 hour.
Add remaining 1/2 – 1 cup of wine and continue simmering for another hour. Adjust seasonings, discard the bay leaves and enjoy. If you want to garnish it, chiffonade (chop in thin strips) some fresh basil or add some fresh thyme.