There’s little to recommend a restaurant--any restaurant–on Valentine’s Day. There are exceptions, but often the specials are lackluster, the kitchen is slammed, the servers are exhausted by 7, the other diners are trying to pack a year’s worth of romance into one night (doesn’t work), and the prices are jacked up like the red roses at the florist. Instead, cook at home that night. And, while you’re at it, think about an IOU for the roses when they’re not $75 a dozen. Some quiet unknown evening in April or May, just pop in with them and call that good sense.
A pot of stew made in the oven of your own or even someone else’s kitchen (set the table and have a glass of sparkling wine and a little cheese while it bubbles away), is just about the perfect way to celebrate an evening together. Make a reservation at the swanky place now for next month and leave the car in the garage for this celebration.
The prep is done ahead, the dishes from that rinsed and stacked or put in the dishwasher, and stew is a whole meal in one pretty bowl. Ok, crusty-chewy bread with salty butter along with salad could be sideline winners here (and this stew loves bread for dipping), but if all you have is stew and wine–you’re good. In fact, if you are a total planner sort, this meal could be made a week early, stored in the freezer, thawed overnight in the fridge, and tossed in the oven on the 14th without a worry in the world.
TIP: By the way: don’t include potatoes if you’re planning on freezing the stew. Potatoes in frozen soup or stew often become grainy or disintegrate.
While Valentine’s Day does indeed present as a night for couples, this meal can also be made for 2 or 3 friends with whom you’d like to spend the evening. An easy oven meal, a good bottle of wine, a fun movie or a slick deck of cards might be just the ticket to celebrate being happy together.
Read through the recipe below– for whomever you’re cooking — and see what’s what. I’m giving you gorgeous options for a plethora of wintery veggies (turnips, parsnips, carrots, onions, etc.), and if you’re not really familiar with all of those root vegetables, try them anyway. Not every stew is made with potatoes or flavored with bay leaves and vegetables in stew meld together in a way that will convince you to love them all at once and in unison. I promise. Be brave and break out of your stew mold if you have one. I use all dried herbs with the exception of parsley (cheap and easily available in February or anytime). I think dried herbs work really well in long-simmered stews, though a big sprig of fresh rosemary (for remembrance) in the middle would be lovely. The leaves will fall off and soften to silk in the oven, though usually–in a dish merely sautéed, for instance– I’d say mince, mince the buggers so you’re not flossing with evergreens at the table.
There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts,” said Ophelia to her brother Laertes. “There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.” (Hamlet/Shakespeare)
Below the recipe, there are ideas about wine and desserts, if needed. At the very bottom of the post, check out the nutrition info. But first, you’ll have to try this:
Dijon Mustard Beef-Barley Stew with Horseradish (Oven)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus a bit extra as needed
- 2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast trimmed of large amounts of fat and gristle, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons all purpose unbleached flour
- 1 medium yellow onion peeled and diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 stalks celery finely diced
- 4 medium carrots peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch coins
- 1 large parsnip peeled, cored and diced into 1/2-inch piece
- 1 small turnip peeled, trimmed, and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- Large handful fresh parsley minced –reserve 1/4 cup for garnish
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary crumbled
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
- 2 teaspoons grated or cream-style horseradish
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups 32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup of water–or more as needed
- 1/4 cup pearl barley
- 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt for garnish–optional
- PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES. Place rack at center.
- BROWN THE MEAT AND ADD THE VEGETABLES: Heat a 5-6-quart dutch oven over medium high heat for two minutes; add oil. Meanwhile, toss beef with flour, salt and pepper. When oil is very hot, add half of the beef pieces and brown on both sides; remove to a bowl. Brown the other half, adding a little more oil if needed. After turning to brown the second side, add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnip, turnip, and parsley to the pot. Stir well and cook about 3 minutes or so until very hot.
- ADD HERBS, MUSTARD, HORSERADISH, AND WINE: Season with the rosemary and thyme. Stir in the mustard and horseradish and heat through. Add wine and let cook 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly, until wine has reduced by half.
- ADD BROTH, BOIL; STIR IN BARLEY: Pour in chicken broth and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Stir in barley. Taste, adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. (I added about the same amount as I did the first time through.)
- COOK IN THE OVEN: Cover and simmer in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours –give or take–or until meat and vegetables are tender and the stew has thickened, checking midway through to make sure the stew doesn’t need more liquid–broth or water. The liquid should still be about 3/4 of the way up the pot at that point. If it’s not, add some water or broth, not more wine. When everything is done, taste one last time, add a little more liquid if necessary, and re-season to taste.
- SERVE HOT in warmed bowls garnished with a small dollop of sour cream or yogurt, if using, and the reserved minced fresh parsley.
If you need a larger meal or have more folks to serve, ladle this over a scoop of buttery mashed potatoes, polenta, quinoa, or fine al dente egg noodles. Another idea is to add a couple of peeled, diced potatoes and 2 cups additional water or broth for a larger pot of stew.
SLOW COOKER OPTION:
I haven’t made this in the slow cooker, but it’s the sort of recipe that will perfectly adapt to a long simmering day. Because stews don’t cook down (evaporate and thicken) in a slow cooker, you may want to try cutting down the amount of liquid. In this case, I’d try skipping the 1 cup water entirely and cutting the chicken broth by 25% or by one cup. Don’t skip browning the meat, please! Basic slow cooker adapting rules here.
As a dear old friend once said to me, “What grows together, goes together.” And so it is with a stew all laced up with Dijon mustard. And where does Dijon mustard grow?
In the Burgundy region of France. And what else is made in the Burgundy region of France? Mais oui! Burgundy wine! French Burgundy, a good bottle anyway, is above most of our pay grades. Luckily many of you live in the U.S. and can run up to the wineshop on the corner and ask for an American Pinot Noir. (Burgundy is made from the Pinot Noir grape.) Tell the clerk what you’re cooking, how much you can spend, and let them help you pick out a bottle in your price range.
Make it easy on yourself. Buy a few pieces of the best chocolate you can find and serve them up with a tiny glass of port. If you’d really like to bake, you can find a gazillion great chocolate desserts via GOOGLE or you might go all fruity and think of making my …
TIP: Shortcakes (sweetened biscuits) can be made ahead and frozen. You can thaw them in an hour or two covered on the counter and only have the apples to stir up in a skillet and the cream to whip.
Stew Nutrition Facts (excluding sour cream/yogurt garnish): Servings 6.0 Amount Per Serving calories 576. % Daily Value *Total Fat 37 g 57 %, Saturated Fat 14 g 71 %, Monounsaturated Fat 3 g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g Trans Fat 0 g Cholesterol 109 mg36 % Sodium 381 mg 16 % Potassium 423 mg 12 % Total Carbohydrate 21 g 7 % Dietary Fiber 5 g 20 % Sugars 7 g Protein 30 g 60 %Vitamin A 136 %Vitamin C 31 % Calcium 5 % Iron 25 %* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA. (calculated through fitness pal dot com)
Spread love and drink wine you like,