Spezzatino di Manzo ai Porri (Beef Stew with Leeks)

We’ve been having crazy warm days…the photo is from the 6th of January  and it was so warm we ate lunch on our veranda!

buckwheat vegetable crepes on the veranda

Our lunch: vegetable filled crepes with spinach and orange salad on the veranda

Weird warm.

thermometer on Jan 6,2013

thermometer on Jan 6,2013

Ewww…I have no idea what that goop is on the thermometer…tomorrow I’ll give it wash. Promise.

 

Do not ask me why I decided we needed to eat beef stew last night. I rarely make meat as a main dish, and I usually only think of stew when it feels like January!

Yesterday I happened to be in the neighborhood of the butcher Porrà, (who supplies us with that wonderful garden gold – manure) so I stopped in to wish them all a Happy New Year. In their little country shop a lovely piece of beef stew meat was beckoning me, so I bought it.

The young butcher was so pleased. He told me that economic crisis or not, almost everyone wants steaks and fancy roasts, all the expensive pieces of meat. We both agreed that most less expensive cuts taste fabulous and also feed a crowd for not much money.

Alas, this dish does not fit my weekday meal rule DENS, Delicious, Economic, Nutritious and Speedy to prepare. It’s the speedy part that fails, but most of the time is actually in the oven…

Serves 6-8

750 grams stew beef

2 large leeks, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 large glass of red wine (I used Montepulciano, a hearty red)

1 sprig fresh rosemary

a few sprigs fresh thyme

Flour for flouring the meat

Cut the beef into small bite size pieces and lightly flour.

Cutting the beef and lightly flouring.

Cutting the beef and lightly flouring.

Heat up a large flat bottomed pan. Add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom, about 1/8″.

Heat the oil until it sizzles when you sprinkle a tiny bit of flour in it.

Add a handful of lightly floured beef pieces, one at a time. Do not crowd. Really. I know it seems faster to add bunches at a time,  but then you end up with sticky steamed bits of meat and burned bits. Better take this slow.

Brown the floured beef pieces over medium heat.

Brown the floured beef pieces over medium heat.

We want browned bits of meat. Do not stir. Do not be tempted to flip the pieces until each one comes away from the bottom of the pan easily..no scraping. Once you get the hang of this you’ll never brown meat another way.

Ready for the next batch

Ready for the next batch

When each batch of meat pieces is browned, transfer them with slotted spoon to a dish you can put in the oven. I have and love a ceramic coated cast iron casserole  given to me by my mother years ago. A stainless steel pot works well too.

ceramic coated cast iron casserole

ceramic coated cast iron casserole

De-glaze the pan you cooked the meat in by adding some red wine while the pan still has heat under it. I always spoon off the extra oil before de-glazing, but if you don’t mind the extra fat, don’t.

Pan ready to be deglazed

Pan ready to be de-glazed. We want all those browny bits.

Deglazed pan

De-glazed pan

Add the sliced leeks.

 

sliced leeks

sliced leeks

Add a half a jar of pure tomato pulp, a glass of red wine, the herbs and season with salt and pepper.

Stew ready to go in oven

Stew ready to go in oven

Put the lid on, or cover with tin foil and put in a medium oven.

pot-ready-for-ovenAfter about a half hour, remove from oven, stir up the contents and add some water if it looks a bit dry. We want it to be dryish..not watery, we’re after stew, not soup. How much, if any extra liquid you need will all depend on how much water is in the ingredients before cooking.

beef stew with leeks

Half way finished

Put back in the oven for about another 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically and adding bits of water if needed. You know it’s done when the meat becomes super tender, and all the ingredients meld together and are ever so slightly caramelized like this:

Finished stew

Finished stew

I served this with steamed tiny potatoes from the garden and wilted broccoli rape. I’ll freeze the leftovers and in the future serve with wholewheat egg pasta.

beef stew with leeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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