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Main Dishes - Meat Cook's Illustrated
Beef 2/13/2012

BEST BEEF STEW
A Cooks Illustrated tested recipe.

Submitted by: Marlys and Glenn

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, click here

Servings: 6 to 8 (or more)

Comments:
We served this at book club because it's a do-ahead one dish meal, easy to serve for lots of people. It's a little time-consuming, but worth it. Note, we served it with one of Marlys' salads and bread, and we had left overs even with 8 diners.

Since it is a Cook's Illustrated recipe, it's been tested and refined, so be wary of changing or skipping steps. Our friendly tasters liked it, and none of them knew there are anchovies in the recipe until we told them. Don't skip them!

Cook's story on the anchovies was interesting. Chefs often add foods with glutamates to enhance flavor. In this recipe, the glutamates come from the salt pork (we couldn't find it on short notice, so used cured bacon, with most fat removed and minced so we could leave it in the stew), tomato paste, and the surprise guest, anchovies. It turns out that anchovies also contain a substance called inosinate which boosts the impact of glutamates up to 15 times. Flavor turbo!

Ingredients:
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
4 anchovy fillets, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons; we used a prepared anchovy paste in a tube)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 boneless chuck-eye roast (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, halved and cut from pole to pole into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine (Cook's suggests a good quality, medium-bodied wine)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 ounces salt pork, rinsed of excess salt (see our note above)
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 teaspoons (about 1 packet) unflavored powdered gelatin
½ cup water
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; set oven to 300 degrees F. Combine garlic, anchovies, and tomato paste in small bowl and set aside.
2. Pat meat dry. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add ½ beef and brown on all sides; set aside. Repeat with remaining oil and beef. (Do more batches if you need to. Try not to have the meat too crowded or it will steam rather than sear.)
3. Return beef plus juice that was set aside to the pot; reduce heat to medium. Add onions and carrots, stir and scrape browned bits from the pan, and cook a couple minutes or until onion is softened. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.
4. Slowly add wine, scrapeing bottom of pan. Raise heat to high and allow wine to simmer a couple minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme, and salt pork. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 ½ hours.
5. Remove pot from over; remove bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
6. Using large sppon, skim any excess fat from surface. Stir in pearl onions; cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are cooked through and meat offers little resistance when poked, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and allow to soften for 5 minutes.
7. Increase heat to high, stir in softened gelatin mixture and peas; simmer until gelatin is fully dissolved and stew is thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

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