Monday, January 23, 2017

Musings on Yellow: Kitchen Colors

I love the color yellow for kitchens.  The first chance I got to pick wall paint colors for the house I was living in I pointed to a soft, daffodil yellow and said “I want that for the kitchen.”  There was no question about it, and the next time I can paint my kitchen - it will be to as close a yellow to that soft, happy sunshine color as I can find.  It can totally transform a drab, dark kitchen to an open, bright space, which is good for me because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  Who wants to cook in a kitchen where even the walls seem lackluster and dreary?

Yellow only belongs in the kitchen though, as a wall color at least.  Too bright for a bedroom or even a communal space, I fully believe yellow paint should be used sparingly, letting other less brilliant pastels soften the edges of each room in a house.  The kitchen is the room that needs that little bit of extra sunlight, or at least the appearance or feel of the sun streaming through the windows. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Steak Stew - A bowl of community

2016 is over and gone, 2017 has begun.  I decided to start this year with a recipe post - my own stew recipe that I make once a year.  Stew Day, as it has come to be called in my house, is the day in which I take out the biggest pot I own and make enough stew for a small army.  After about 5 hours of prepping and cooking, family and friends descend upon my house - sometimes with bread or salad or other side dishes - and we make merry until the last of the pot is gone (only once has there been a little left over for the next day, and that was when I made 3 pots of stew and set some aside to give to friends who could not make it).

Stew Day in my house is about community, about coming together to renew our strength as kith and kin over bowls of steaming hot steak stew.  For that reason it seemed like a good recipe to start the year with.

The ingredient list is given in ounces and weight - since every time I've tried to share this recipe using cup measurements the result from others was way off.

Steak Stew 

Ingredients
11 ounces Roma or beefsteak tomatoes, chopped very finely (or 1 standard 15oz can of crushed tomatoes)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Approximately 13 ounces extra virgin olive oil (first cold press)
1 pounds 12 ounces very coarsely chopped yellow onions (about two onions cut into 12 pieces each)
2.4 ounces shallots (2 to 3 shallots)
1 ounce garlic, finely chopped and mashed a bit (a few cloves)
Approximately 5 pounds stew meat (you can buy this in most grocery stores or places like Costco - or you can use 5 lbs of chuck roast or flank steak and cut it up into large chunks).
2-3 tablespoons of My Spice Mix (don't worry - I'll write it up and link to it soon)
4 three-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary (fresh is best - truly)
32 ounces vegetable stock or water mixed with bouillon
1.5 cups Merlot (or a very dark red wine but Merlot I found is best)
Approximately 6  to 6.5 pounds russet or Idaho potatoes, sliced into half-inch triangles (but don’t use these if you plan to freeze the stew - the texture gets horrible - yellow potatoes or small reds work better for that)
1.25 pounds carrots, thickly sliced
Scant pound of celery, thickly sliced
1 pint cream or half and half

Instructions
Sprinkle the brown sugar over the tomatoes and set the tomatoes aside until it is time to add them to the stew.

Pour olive oil in the base of the pot. A taller pot with a base about 12 inches around works best for this though a wider short pot will work just fine as well.  The goal here is to pour the olive oil into the bottom of the pot until it just comes up the curves of the bottom edge. You are going to steam the meat with the olive oil without things burning on the bottom, so you need enough for that.

Layer the onions, shallots, garlic, and meat (in that order) on top of the oil.  The meat should be in as close to a single layer as possible above the onions, shallots and garlic, and should not be touching the bottom of the pot.

Sprinkle the herb mixture over everything.

Carefully remove rosemary leaves from the twigs and sprinkle the leaves on the meat.

Cover and start cooking on low heat.

After 20 minutes, increase heat slightly and turn meat over. What you are looking for is for the meat to start to brown ever so slightly. Continue to cook. Keep checking the meat and turning it until each piece is lightly browned on all sides.

When the meat is browned on all sides (after about 40 minutes of cooking), add the vegetable stock. Increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer.

After it reaches a simmer (about 5 minutes), add the wine, tomatoes, and potatoes. Stir to make sure all the potatoes are covered by the broth.

Add the carrots and celery. Stir. Keep covered and keep cooking on medium heat. If it starts to boil over, remove the lid or you can also spoon out about two cups of the fluid, whisk in a few tablespoons of flour, and save it to thicken the stew later.

Cook for ten minutes, then add the cream. Cook on low for about an hour, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are done.  At this point you can add back in the extra cups of broth with flour and mix well (if you do this let the stew cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer before serving).

Serve and enjoy!