Sunday, November 20, 2011

Night #1 - Simple Beef Stew & Sourdough Bread with Irish Butter

27 hours with Bryn and Alex as house guests and I am in absolute h.e.a.v.e.n. I'm also a bit exhausted because we couldn't get ourselves to stop talking until 2:00 a.m., but still. Heaven. I know the week will pass too quickly.

Here's how the cooking's going. 

First, let me say I have confirmed anew to myself that it pays to go simple in a situation like this. When your guests are staying with you overnight or for several nights, they're in your presence for all your prep-work and all your cooking. You don't want them to feel like they're placing a major burden on you, so it's not the time for anything overly time-consuming or elaborate. Slaving away in the kitchen is not the only way to produce great food and communicate to your guests that they're special. Simply by choosing a few fresh, seasonal ingredients on which to base your meal, you set yourself up for success. Why fresh and seasonal? Not many fruits or vegetables can be found at their peak year-round, especially in areas with varied, dry, or cold climates. Most really thrive for 1-3 months and the rest of the year they want to hibernate. If you try to wake them up or ship them in, you're going to get produce that tastes slightly tired or jet-lagged. Buying in-season and locally means your produce will be vibrant and have flavor that really sings. Am I crazy strict about this? No. In fact you'll see some Summer produce in my cooking this week. But I stick to it as often as I can. After you have your few ingredients, choose a menu you're comfortable with enough with to be able to prepare while carrying on a basic conversation, because, chances are, that's exactly what you're going to need to do. 

Okay, I completely forgot the quiche while out shopping, so I had to improvise with breakfast a bit. Thank goodness I had the ingredients to some delicious mini chocolate & almond croissants, which I will share later this week! They were a smash hit, as they always are.  I did manage to offer Bryn and Alex folded pillow cases instead of cloth napkins which are almost an identical shade of ecru and had somehow made their way into my stash of napkins. We had a really good laugh. Brynley commented how she thought they were such perfect napkins because they more than covered her lap! Oh, dear... At least we're creating memories, right? Otherwise all is going as planned and the meals have been satisfying and delicious! 

For the night they arrived I chose to go with a very simple beef stew and warm-from-the-bakery loaf of sourdough bread with Irish butter. The weather has turned cold and I wanted to welcome them with something unpretentious, warm, and comforting. Why Irish butter? It's so smooth and delicious and it's that extra something special you're looking for to make your guests feel special. The recipe is adapted from Jane Maynard's This Week For Dinner

- beef stew meat / round steak (appx amount: 1 1/2 lb)
- butter/olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped 
- beef broth (appx 4-6 cups)
- celery (as much as desired)
- carrots (as much as desired; I use whole baby carrots)

- skinned russet potatoes, cut into eighths (as much as desired)
- flour/water thickening
- salt & pepper to taste

Dry each piece of stew meat using paper towels. Brown the meat over medium-medium/high heat, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. (Make sure the pan is nice and hot before adding the meat, or it won't sear properly and may overcook. Each piece should only be turned once.) Season to taste.  While meat is browning, bring broth to a low boil and turn down to a simmer. Add meat to the broth. Without cleaning the pan, add the onions and more olive oil if needed. Cook until they start to become an iridescent color and add to the pot. Let simmer for a few hours until the meat begins to fall apart. Add remaining vegetables. When they’re not quite done, add thickening. Taste test and add additional seasoning if needed. Serve with a fresh loaf of sourdough bread and Irish butter.

1 comment:

  1. Janna, even your handwriting is impressive. The beef stew is making my mouth water.