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Give me a cold day. Any cold day. Let me have time and peace to stir together something that incubates in my oven gently easing its teasing, come-hither aromas throughout the house and drawing near all who enter.  Add an entrancing, captivating book waiting for me during that 3-hour parole and I am a happy girl. Ok, include a balanced, but lofty bottle of wine and the deal is sealed.

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STEW SURELY CREATES ANTICIPATION,  CONTENTMENT, AND CREATIVITY…

Dave’s Grandma May Mays celebrated New Year’s day with a group of Sunday School friends each year in nearly the same way.  A hefty pot of beef stew was thrown into the oven, the cards were brought out, and they played until the stew was done. I always thought it was a clever way to start the year–engaged and both well-fed and friended.  

As a stew lover, I for years made next-day stew with pot roast leftovers not just to stretch one meal into two, but because the second-day stew was perhaps my family’s favorite part of having pot roast.  As time went on, I branched out into many kinds of stews, and now all winter long the pot bubbles with stews featuring pork, beef, lamb, sausages, beans, fish or seafood, or even only root vegetables. A favorite is:

Slow Cooker Beef-Chile Stew on Cheddar Potatoes

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Last week, I had a yen for a basic sort of warming, filling stew to feed Dave and Emily when they pulled in after a long drive from the east coast. I needed something ready whenever they showed up and wanted to pay attention to them, not to the stove. Stew was the answer. (Whatever the question was…)

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I decided to combine a chuck roast with a few spicy Italian sausage links languishing in the freezer with nowhere to turn. (I like Sara’s Sausage, made right up the road in Palmer Lake, Colorado.) The old school herbs for stew are bay and thyme; I would use bay to fill out and strengthen the flavor of the broth, but turned to Herbes de Provence and even a little dried oregano to pique interest.  The stew would lean from traditional British and Irish-type beef and lamb stews south and east toward the Mediterranean in profile.  A few olives could even make an appearance for garnish and while I considered adding white beans, I went with the plethora of root vegetables sitting on the counter. While I adore fresh herbs and grow them all winter long in my south window, I use dried herbs for a long-cooking soup or stew; there’s more flavor and they’re enduring over the hours in the oven. My exception is parsley, which is cooked into the stew, but is also used for garnish.

Equipment Note:  Consider investing in one of the new big Dutch ovens that are incredibly light-weight and thus slide in and out of the oven with ease. While I adore my cast iron versions, the pots above 6-quarts are nearly impossible for me to dislodge from oven to stove top when full. My new Calphalon is 8.5 quarts–and has more than enough room for this recipe.

Try this and warm up tonight:

DUTCH OVEN BEEF AND ITALIAN SAUSAGE STEW

serves 8

Great for company or family, this stew simmers happily in your oven while you spend the afternoon reading a novel, doing the laundry, watching an old movie, figuring out a business plan, or skiing. You’ll also have time to make a salad, set the table, and set out starters. This is a complete meal, but the addition of some crusty bread and a crunchy salad are lovely, too.

  • Olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 pound (12 ounces or 3 links) Italian sausage links, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 leeks, washed very well and sliced thinly (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks with leaves, diced
  • 1 large carrot, trimmed and peeled, diced
  • 2 small parsnips, trimmed and peeled, diced
  • 1 medium turnip, trimmed and peeled, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided (save some for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence*
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 cups beef broth, low sodium
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Heat 8-quart Dutch Oven over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss beef with flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper in a large bowl.  Brown beef in 2 batches; remove to bowl.
  2. Add another tablespoon olive oil to the hot pot, if needed, and brown the Italian sausage on one side.  Turn sausage and stir in leeks, onions, celery, and carrots and cook, until sausage is thoroughly browned on all sides and vegetables are softening. Return the beef to the pot and stir again.
  3. Add parsnips, turnip, garlic, 2/3 cup parsley, the potato, and dried herbs and crushed red pepper. Stir well and let cook 2-3 minutes.  Pour in broth, wine, water, and tomato paste. Toss in bay leaves.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper or dried herbs as needed.  Bring to a boil. Turn off heat.
  4. Cover and place Dutch oven in the oven for 2 1/2 -3 hours or until the beef is fork tender.  Remove from oven, stir well, taste, and adjust seasonings one last time. Serve hot garnished with minced fresh parsley.

Consider adding a small scoop of hot parsley rice–white or brown– or noodles-GF, if needed– to each serving to cut fat and cholesterol percentages (Grains are good for your heart! ), but also to feed a larger number of people if that’s a concern.

SIDES: Serve with a basket full of crusty whole grain bread-GF, if needed, and a crunchy green salad, if you like.

*Can sub half dried basil and half dried thyme

Options: 1. If you don’t like parsnips or turnips, and I’d encourage you to try them, you can add more carrots and another large potato. 2. Mushroom lovers might sauté 8 ounces of quartered or sliced mushrooms with a little thyme at the the end of the cooking time and stir them in at the very end a la Boeuf bourguignon (Beef burgundy.) 3. Instead of parsley for garnish, you could try some sliced or minced kalamata olives and move the stew even closer to the Mediterranean.

Storage: Fridge: Cool completely, cover, and store right away in refrigerator 3-4  days.  Freezer: Divide between tightly covered freezer containers (or freezer bags) and store in freezer in 0 degrees F freezer for 4-6 months.

{printable recipe}

WINE: a robust, but inexpensive Chianti, Barbera, or even a Montepulciano.  If you’d like something a tish lighter, try sticking with the Mediterranean values, but move over to France and choose a red Côtes du Rhône. These can all be found for under $15 or $20.–some for less still.

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SLOW COOKER LOVER? When I  posted this recipe, I hadn’t tried it in the slow cooker (I’m more of a Dutch oven baby than a slow cooker woman), but since then I had the opportunity to make it again  and give this method a whirl. I cooked it for 4 hours on high in my 6.5 quart All-Clad Slow Cooker and it probably was done 45 minutes before then.  Definitely too soupy for my taste,  I put it back in a pot on the stove, stirred in about 3 tablespoons all-purposed, unbleached flour whisked into about 1/2 cup water, and let it all simmer another 10 minutes or so thickened.  If I try it again in the slow cooker, which I might — the flavors were lovely — I’d either add the flour at the start or skip at least 1 cup of the water.  (Updated 2/4/17)                photo courtesy ALL-CLAD

FYI:  In my soup cookbook, SOUPS & SIDES FOR EVERY SEASON, there is a happily satisfying stew with a somewhat similar profile though it’s made with lamb, Italian sausage, white beans, and so on. (Lamb-Italian Sausage Stew on page 19)  The meat is first browned stovetop, the vegetables are stirred in with it and cooked briefly, and the entire mixture is turned into the slow cooker. Broth, wine, and seasonings are added and the stew then cooks 6-8 hours on low. 

For a list of 35 great slow cooker beef stews, check out my blogging friend Kalyn Denny’s Slow Cooker from Scratch blog post of her favorites from many sites.

If you liked this, you might like my:

Colorado Lamb and Barley Stew with Butternut Squash and Tarragon

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I’ll leave you with one last lighter note for a difficult and punishing  week for many people … Make your own version (using your own baking photos) or share mine!

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OR, as Dave thought made more sense:

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Sing a new song; braise a new stew,

Alyce