One definition of a happy cook: one who finds a recipe that is fabulous, easy, and delicious.
On a busy weeknight, one more could you ask for? When the cold winter winds in the northeast United States (Massachusetts to be exact) make you think the big, bad wolf has finally arrived to blow your house apart, when your sleeping attire includes socks and a fleece jacket over your already warmest pajamas, when you have to psyche yourself to get out of bed in the morning to brave the cold, when the temperature barely makes it out of the single digits, you want to be nourished by stick-to-your-ribs food.
Stew, yeah, that’s the ticket. That’s what I’ll make. I arrived at that decision after I had my first morning cup of tea. After I began thawing out. I’m glad I stumbled on this recipe, right there on my own cookbook shelves! Because I lugged my cold bones out of bed and braved the just-starting-to-be-warm air in our house, we were able to enjoy a dinner of scrumptious pot of delicious yumminess.
After 2 1/2 hours in the oven, the meat falls apart. The barbeque sauce that the beef has been swimming in is everything I want a homemade barbeque sauce to be: thick and sweet and spicy all at the same time. It’s so good that I copied the sauce down, apart from the recipe, and will definitely use it as a regular barbeque sauce. After eating every morsel, after scooping up every bit of tastiness with my fork, I picked up my plate in both hands and licked it clean. I am not embarrased to tell you that. I would do it even if you were looking.
I found the original recipe in a book that I’ve had on my shelves but have never used. It is called Simply Stews by Susan Wyler. I modified it – I didn’t have dark brown sugar, so I used light brown sugar and added molasses to the recipe. I didn’t have dried chipotle chile peppers, so I used canned ones in adobo sauce. I didn’t have beer, so I used water. And I didn’t serve it over cheddared corn pudding, as the original recipe suggests, though next time I might consider making cornbread to serve with it.
So, if you live in a cold climate, while the winter winds are still blowing, while you are still wearing winter pj’s, while the days are still short, try making this beef stew. It will warm every part of you. And if your weather is milder and you don’t have to dress in three layers before going outdoors, this will still be a good choice!
Barbecued Beef Stew
3 Â½ lbs. trimmed beef chuck, cut into 1 Â½â€ chunks
1 tsp. salt
Â½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
12 ounces water
Â½ cup plus 2 tbsp cider vinegar
Â½ cup ketchup
3 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 Â½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Â¾ teaspoon dried marjoram
3 â€“ 4 chilies (from can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
Preheat oven to 325Â°. Season the meat with the salt and pepper.
In a large Dutch oven or ovenproof casserole, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the meat in batches without overcrowding. SautÃ©, turning, until browned. Remove meat.
Add the chopped onions to the casserole and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Return the meat to the pan along with brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, ground cumin, dry mustard, dried marjoram and chilies. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.
Bake the stew for 2 â€“ 2 Â½ hours, or until the meat is fork tender and beginning to fall apart. Remove from the oven.
With a slotted spoon, remove the meat to a bowl. Skim excess fat from the surface of the stew. Remove the chipotle chilies and puree them in a blender or food processor with about one cup of the cooking liquid from the casserole. If there isnâ€™t enough liquid, add some water to the chilies before blending them. Stir the chili puree back into the stew. If the sauce is too thin, boil uncovered, stirring often until thickened slightly, about 5 â€“ 7 minutes, and skimming any residual fat. Return the beef to the stew. Reheat on the stove and serve.