Beef Stew with Winter Vegetables


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Wolfgang PuckOne of the best, easiest, most economical ways I know to impress people with your cooking skills is to make a pot of stew. Yes, old-fashioned, home-style stew. It's the perfect dish for casual winter dinner parties and family meals. A pot of stew simmering slowly on your stove fills your kitchen with one of the best aromas you could imagine for a cold winter day. It promises great flavors, soothing warmth, and all the satisfaction you need to power you through the snow or rain.

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  • 2 lb. beef chuck
  • 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 C. dry red wine
  • 2 C. homemade beef stock or good quality canned beef broth
  • 1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 to 8 fresh large sage leaves, washed and dried
  • 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 lb. Roma tomatoes, cored, blanched briefly in boiling water, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 lb. thinly sliced pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 lb. button mushrooms, trimmed and wiped clean with a damp cloth
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley

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Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes, trimming away excess fat and any gristle. In a plastic food storage bag large enough to hold all the meat with room to spare, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Add the meat to the bag and shake until all the beef cubes are coated with the flour mixture. In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil. Working in batches to prevent overcrowding, brown the beef cubes on all sides, removing from pan as browned.

In the same saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion, garlic and thyme leaves and saute, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the wine to the pan and bring it to a boil, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Return the meat to the pan. Add the stock or broth, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaf. Cover, reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer, and cook for 1 hour. On a cutting board, stack the sage leaves, roll them up lengthwise into a tight bundle, and, with a sharp knife, cut them crosswise into thin strips. Stir the sage, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots and tomatoes into the stew.

Cover and continue simmering until the meat and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes more. About 10 minutes before serving time, heat a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta or bacon and saute, stirring continuously, until it renders its fat and begins to brown. Add the mushrooms and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf from the stew. Stir in the mushrooms and pancetta or bacon. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Ladle the stew into shallow soup bowls, garnish with parsley, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

(Chef Wolfgang Puck's TV series, "Wolfgang Puck's Cooking Class," airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network. Also, chef Wolfgang Puck's latest cookbook, Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy, is now available in bookstores. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY. 14207.)



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