July 6, 2o15
I originally posted this in 2013 but since it is going to be “real feel” heat index today of 90 degrees, I brought out the crock pot to keep a cool kitchen and still have something wonderful to eat for dinner!
This is forever one of my favorite recipes …most delicious with memories of one of my many former lives. How we grow and change in the various chapters of our stories. This is one of the threads that runs through all of them, this recipe altho ingredients change depending what is in the fridge, on he shelf or in the garden.
Today the herbs were all fresh from the garden, except the bay leaf and astragalus, which most definitely was not part of the original recipe. The fresh herbs today were basil, lemon thyme, parsley and sweet marjoram, the sprigs of which will be fished out of the broth at the end.
(To read about the love affair with my garden this year, please check out the series “My Garden, My Soul” on my http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com blog)
Now on the recipe and the story that goes with it!
Many years ago when my former husband and I were first married, we followed his dream of becoming a marine biologist, relocating from inland New York state to the coast of New England so he could attend graduate school and the Colleges of Oceanography and Zoology at the University of R.I. Neither of us had traveled afar in our young years (nobody of our ages did much traveling abroad in those days except to Vietnam under orders from the “Draft”). Being an oceanography/zoology major was kind of romantic, and later offered him the opportunity to travel the high seas as a research scientist/oceanographer. But graduate school also offered both of us…all of us.. the opportunity to meet people from other cultures who came here to study as well.
In those years, our closest friends became a couple from Belgium..a country we really had not studied much in earlier school days. She, Anne Marie, and I met a few days before the semester started, hanging our laundry in adjacent rented apartment backyards. Delighted to find out, over the clotheslines, that both of our husbands, my Jack and her Thierry, were going to be in the same department at the university, we became fast-friends and colleagues sharing many meals, holidays, daytrips as well as babyclothes and babysitting as graduate student families do, for many a year. We each learned much about each other’s cultures and perspectives on life ie The American way vs. The European way. From us, Anne Marie and Thierry experienced their first American Thanksgiving (Thierry was aghast that Americans pile all sort of foods on one plate, eating them all mixed up together on that day, he being used to separate courses in more elegant style) and I learned how to make this wonderful stew from Annemarie.
Americans at that time were into “a large portion of meat”, a starchy food like potato, rice or pasta and maybe a small salad or token green vegetable on the side. The meat was kind of low cost…hamburger, or a lower quality cut of beef to barbecue or roast, as the portion was larger than any one ingredient in the meal. The Belgique way, even as graduate students on a stipend, was a small medallion of a more costly cut of beef or meat, surrounded..and I mean surrounded ..by a variety of deliciously and carefully-prepared vegetables and a salad. Our Belgian friends got “Thanksgiving” from us…and I got this Flemish Beef Stew.
The traditional way that Annemarie made this was with stew beef, and onions only, browned in butter, seasoned and braised in beer, served with potatoes. It is delicious that way, but as always, my creative spirit has enlarged on that recipe and I cook this with other vegetables as well as onions, and season it with bay, dried marjoram and basil. Served with potatoes.
This is a most hearty and delicious stew and I hope you enjoy it. I do not eat much meat, but when I do, I now use only grass-fed beef froma local and known farm. Grass-fed beef, be aware, is leaner and tougher in texture than supermarket beef, fattened and flavored with corn and which, after having sat through a showing of the documentary “Food Inc”, I will never ever purchase commercially in a market again.
As always, when eating meat…I give a blessing and a special thanks for the animal that sustains me in that meal.
1 lb of stew beef (local grass-feed preferred if possible), several tablespoons of butter ( The Belgians love butter and like Julia Child, use it with abandon) 1-2 large onions sliced thin (I use a sweet onion like Vidalia), 2 cloves of garlic chopped small, 2-3 carrots sliced thin, 1-2 ribs of celery chopped, 1-3 parsnips (optional) sliced thin, 1 (24-oz) can of beer (I use Bud..can use a fancier one if preferred), I small can of beef broth, 1-2 thinly slices of bread slathered with honey mustard ( a tuscan olive bread is good if you have it), 1 large or 2 small bay leaves, a dash of dried basil and marjoram (go easy at first..adjust and add a little more if suited to your taste..you can always “add” but your can’t “take away” once something is too much!), salt and pepper. Boiled potatoes on the side to add to the stew at serving. (a couple of options for the stew while cooking…a small squeeze of anchovy paste, or several chopped kalamata olives..go easy..and taste along the way)
Cut the stew beef in small one inch chunks, and saute in butter, browning on all sides. Add the onions and stir to soften onions, add garlic, saute but do not burn. Add other vegetable and saute gently for several minutes for flavors to blend. Add 3/4 of the can of beer to cover the meat and vegetables, and 1/2 of the can of beef broth. Stir. Add the bay leaf, and dried basil and marjoram, and a little salt and pepper. Meat and vegetables should be covered with liquid. Lay the slices of bread which have been spread with a thin layer of honey mustard on top of the meat and liquid, bring to a gentle boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover, with a little opening. The bread will eventually dissolve and in stirring, will thicken the broth. Do add the rest of the beer and broth as needed while cooking. The stew is done when the beef is tender.
I do not give exact ingredients because I cook with basic ingredients and experiment and taste taste taste along the way in the cooking process.. For me it is like an art project, requiring small adjustments and assessments all along the way, to create a meal that will be delicious and a favorite to repeat many times in the future!
Good luck and good eating to you!
Christine, The Cook