When Laura and I decided that this week's theme would be comfort food, we were, of course, thinking about the weather. Middle of February, spring still many weeks away, cold, icy winds, slippery side walks, the works. It's the kind of weather that makes you want to lock the doors and windows before tucking into a warm bowl of… comfort food! What I could not anticipate was that I would need comfort against something more insidious, more profound. I don't even have a name for what's ailing me. You tell me. The other night Esme and I were in the bathroom together, she was brushing her teeth while I brushed her hair. My sweet baby (only just 6!) started to giggle and then let loose with a self-satisfied rendition of "I'm Sexy and I Know It" as I looked on with my jaw hanging open. To be honest, it was only the lovely chorus that she'd picked up — from where? from whom? — but still. Horror.
photo by Maya Visnyei
And.… home school? Convent? How do I make this stop? I'm not sure I'm down with the bargain where we send her off to school and she comes home A++ on her Cantonese home work but also with the lyrics to LMFAO songs. The only thing that did comfort me through my ordeal was doling out the time-honoured "Wait until your Dad hears this" card. Oh, and Ben will need to start his own blog to share his reaction to Esme's song but trust me, it was really good. Plus, the dear friends of the Twitter-sphere who suggested I could convince Esme the words were really, I'm Sassy and I Know It, or best of all, I'm Elmo and I Know It (the video is quite hilarious).
So, can a dinner help with my despair? Not really, since it can't stop time and that's the real problem here. However, (hold on tight for the huge leap here okay? ) this stew is really good. It's savoury, obviously, but also sweet from the carrots and tastes like heaven with a side of mashed potatoes. I've made a few times in the last month and it never disappoints. It takes very little time to get it going and then it bubbles away on the stove on its own, filling your home with amazing smells and the good feeling of knowing a great dinner is ahead of you. It's a great thing to make on a weekend afternoon because you've got a little time to putter away. Plus, there's no bad influences around, teaching your kid the lyrics to sexed-up pop songs. Or at least in can feel like that.
Beef and Mushroom Stew
2 lbs stewing beef
2 Tbsps flour
salt and pepper
2 Tbsps olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb mushrooms, halved or quartered, depending on size
2 large carrots, diced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup white or red wine (optional)
4 cups beef broth
Shake flour out onto a plate and season with salt and pepper. Now dredge your pieces of meat through the flour making sure that every surface gets a light coating.
Pull out a big pot or dutch oven and warm up your olive oil in it over medium heat. Working in batches, brown your meat. You don't want to over crowd you pot or you'll end up sort of steaming it which won't give you the nice brown crust you're looking to form. Don't worry about cooking the meat through, that will happen later. Place the cooked meat on a clean plate as you work and set aside. There's going to be lots of gunky brown stuff on the bottom of your pot and that is good. Really good.
Once all of your meat is browned and set aside, get your onion and garlic in the pot to sautee and soften, about 3 minutes. Now toss in the mushrooms and thyme. It will take a few moments for the mushrooms to begin to soften and kick off some moisture but they will! Keep stirring everything around. Now add your tomato paste and stir it so everything gets coated. Let that cook for a couple of minutes.
If you're cooking with wine, add it now. It's not necessary but it does add a great flavour (and all the alcohol will burn off so don't worry about that!). Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot now to loosen up all that caramelized beefy goodness. Add your stock and the beef, bring it to a simmer, cover and let it do it's thing for about an hour. Now add your carrots and simmer away just until they're tender, about 10 more minutes.
Oh, and while all that is happening you'll want to boil some potatoes to mash as nothing tastes as good with beef stew as some buttery mashed potatoes.