Beef Stew with Pan Bread

imageThe weather in Ottawa is just so fickle!  You think that since it’s April and it reached 10C on the weekend that you can relax into spring, but no!  You step out of the door on Tuesday morning and have to run back into the safety of your winter jacket and hopefully find a warm sweater before attempting the outdoors again.  The only bright side of this week is that I had a craving for beef stew on the weekend and have enough leftover for lunches this week, so I will be staying toasty at work.

Stew is just such great comfort food.  You need to remain  near home in order to make it, since it takes a few hours to simmer.  And yet, you don’t have to be over the stove, so it’s perfect for reading a good book or making silly crafts or getting some laundry done.  I like to start preparing about 3 hours before I want to eat, just to be sure it’s ready to go.  This stew actually gets better with time, so you can make it ahead and just reheat on the stove or in the microwave.

image(1)Beef Stew (from Starting Out)

Serves 6
Ingredients:
 2 Tbsp flour
    salt and pepper
    1 – 1 1/2 lb beef stew meat, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch cubes (I usually buy the pre-cut stew beef from the grocery store)
olive oil
    1-2 onions diced
    3 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 cup red wine (optional)
    2 1/2 cups beef, vegetable or chicken broth
    1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
    1 tsp thyme
    1-2 bay leaves
    2 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
    2 carrots, peeled and sliced
 1-2 stalks celery, sliced (optional)
 1/2 cup frozen peas (optional – I never add them)

What to do:
Season the flour with salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the beef cubes and toss them with the flour until well coated.  In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Brown the beef in batches (add a little more oil each time), cooking for a few minutes on each side, until brown all over.  You might need to do this in batches.  Remove the beef and set aside.

Add more oil to the pot and cook the onions for about 5 minutes, until they are soft.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the wine, broth and tomatoes (with their juices), scraping up the bottom to release any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom (these add lots of flavour).  Return the beef to the pot along with the thyme and bay leaves.

Bring to a simmer.  Turn down the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for an hour. Go do something fun.  Add the potatoes and carrots (and celery) and cook the stew uncovered for another 45 minutes.  If using, add the peas in the last 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and serve.

image(4)Pan Bread – yes, this is basically a caramelized onion upside-down biscuit, made in a cake pan.  It was AMAZING with the stew, but I imagine also with any other soup or stew. (adapted from Starting Out)

Serves 6

Ingredients
 1 Tbsp butter
    1 Tbsp oil
    2 large onions, cut in half and sliced
    1 tsp sugar
    2 cups all purpose flour
    1 Tbsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 cup milk
    1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
    1 green onion, chopped (optional)

What to do:
While you are waiting for the stew to start to simmer, in a large skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil.  Sauté the onions for about 15 minutes, until they’re soft and starting to turn golden.  Stir in the sugar and set aside.

About an hour before you want to eat the stew, preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray the bottom of a pie plate or an 8 inch pan with non-stick spray and spread the onions over the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  In a small bowl, stir together the milk, oil and egg.  Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture along with the green onion and stir until just blended.

Spread the batter over the onions and bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden around the edges, cracked on top and springy to the touch.  Cut and serve warm.

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