Big chunks of beef chuck make this hearty beef stew the perfect solution to a cold winter day.
Waking up this morning I was greeted by a gleaming white wonderland outside. It had snowed nearly a foot overnight, and the city looked bright and shiny with it’s newly minted facade. Being a relative newbie to the whole concept of snow, I was excited to go romp around the neighborhood and decided to head out to the New Amsterdam Wintermarket, despite L’s wise urgings to the contrary.
Indeed, with 2 foot snow drifts, lakes of grey slush and snow plows jettisoning brake dust Slurpees off the FDR onto the unsuspecting pedestrians below, I was wholly unprepared for the perils I’d be facing when I left the apartment this afternoon. After being nearly impaled by a two foot long icicle coming off a building I walked past, and narrowly escaping the aforementioned frozen shower off the FDR, I made it to the outdoor Wintermarket; and what a glorious place it was.
Situated right under the FDR near South Street Seaport, this open-air market has run monthly for the past 3 months in an effort to raise money to find a permanent home for the market. Vendors are organized by breads, dairy, meats, produce and prepared food and you can get everything from a plate of shucked oysters, to foraged roots, to a cheese and duck confit hot pocket with cran-apple mostarda. Best of all, the vendors are friendly and cheap. Case in point, I bagged a whole side of hot smoked bluefish from Acme Smoked Fish for $10, and Fleisher’s Grass-fed & Organic Meats gave me a over a pound of pork belly for free!
Loot in hand, I prepared for my trek back home, pondering what I was going to do with my bags of protein. I’m quite certain that some of you are going to accuse me of being sexist for what I’m about to say (and others may simply write this off as some sort of Napoleon complex), but as I headed home toting a few pounds of beef chuck, and a man sized appetite, I said to myself, “I need a manly beef stew”.
I’m talking about the kind of stew that a fella wearing red plaid flannel with a sun grisled face would chow on, the kind of solitary bad-ass that would sport a week of coarse stubble, not because it’s hip, but because he forgot to sharpen his bowie knife.
Manly man in mind, I started thinking about what would make a stew manly. The stew couldn’t be fussy (cause honestly, what man would be bothered with making a roux while in the prairie driving cattle), it needed to have manly ingredients (I figured beef, beer and bourbon was a good start), but most importantly, it had to be good eatin’.
The stew I came up with in a simple affair, made with a set it and forget it mindset. It benefits from a few hours of simmering, but beyond some chopping and browning, it’s the kind of stew that someone without much of a culinary disposition can make without much difficulty… perfect for a man.
Bourbon, Beer and Beef Stew
1 1/2″ cube of salted pork fat (a.k.a. fatback)
2 lbs well marbled chuck
1 Tbs fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbs kosher salt
3 Tbs flour
2 small onions chopped
3 cloves of garlic smashed
1/4 C bourbon
1/2 can of beer (chug the other half)
2 C chicken or beef stock
1 Tbs tomato paste (or ketchup)
1 bay leaf
10 juniper berries
2 large potatoes cut into 1″ chunks
2 large carrots cut into 1″ chunks
1 C peas
Cut the pork fat into 1/4″ cubes and add them to a large enameled cast iron pot. Put the pot over medium heat and let the fat render out. While that’s doing its thing, dry off any extra moisture on the beef. Toss the meat with the salt and pepper, then dust it with the flour, tossing to coat evenly.
When most of the fat has rendered out of the pork, add 1 layer of beef to the pot. Let this fry for about 4-5 minutes or until you get a nice crispy brown coating on the beef. This brown stuff is where all the flavor is, so more brown = better. Flip and brown the other side. Transfer the cooked beef back to the plate your uncooked beef is on (don’t worry it’s all going to get cooked more later) and repeat with the rest of the beef.
Add the onions and garlic to the pot and fry until soft and very brown (10-15 minutes). Again, brown = better. Turn up the heat to high and add the bourbon (you can light it with a match to satisfy the pyromaniac in you, but it’s not necessary). Add the beer and stock and bring to a boil. At this point you could skim off the fat and scum that floats up, but I didn’t have much, and it didn’t seem very manly to think about my waistline, so I let it be. Add the tomato paste, bay leaf and juniper berries and salt to taste. Partially cover with a lid and cook on low heat for 1 hour.
Add the vegetable and continue cooking for about another hour or until the meat and vegetable are tender. Add the peas, heat through and serve with a crusty heel of bread.