The Cooking Chronicles: Stew-pendous

Eye-rolling title aside, since launching into the world of meat stew a few weeks ago, we’ve continued to crave it, and have been experimenting with different recipes to satisfy that craving.

Mushroom Stew with Beef Chunks

Mark Bittman says that his recipe for mushroom stew with beef chunks can be easily adapted into a vegetarian dish by simply using more mushrooms, but since we had a package of beef stew meat left (our dwindling cow share stash), I thought it would be a good recipe to make and compare with our previous slow-roasted version.

This stew cooks up on the stovetop, for around an hour and a half. What sets it apart is the inclusion of dried mushrooms (we used porcini), and the soaking liquid. Our entire condo was perfumed with the scent of the mushrooms, which also had the effect of lightening the dish as well, as the broth was more liquid than paste).

The beef, as expected, wasn’t as tender as when cooked in the oven for a longer period of time, but it was still pretty tasty. Both of us agreed, though, that the best thing about the dish really was the broth. No stock/wine combination could outshine the aromatic porcini liquid, especially to have been made in that amount of time.

Mushroom Stew with Beef Chunks

Mushroom stew with beef chunks

Elk Stew

Stew is great not only for its comforting aspects, but is the perfect winter meal – nearly all the ingredients for a typical stew can be found at your local farmers’ market right now. For us, this means potatoes from Greens, Eggs and Ham, carrots from Riverbend Gardens, mushrooms from MoNa…and elk from Shooting Star Ranch.

I decided to give elk stew a try after talking to Christine from Shooting Star at the Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market. She convinced me to try using sirloin meat, and had advised me on cooking it “low and slow” (low meaning 250F) for several hours.

Of course, being the overreaching cook that I am, I thought I would be able to make this stew on a weeknight. To compensate for the time, I jacked up the temperature somewhat (about 315 for the first hour, and 275 for the second).

I realized in hindsight that a high temperature wasn’t necessary – the elk was super lean, but more than that, the consistency of the meat reminded me of liver – supple and maroon in colour (interestingly enough, it tasted slightly of liver too – some pieces that I bit in to had a faint metallic tang). Needless to say, I think I cooked the living daylights out of the sirloin, so I definitely learned my lesson: follow the instructions!

Elk Stew

Elk stew

6 thoughts on “The Cooking Chronicles: Stew-pendous

  1. I’m confident Christine knows her meats, but I too have rough times, more often than not, with stewing of game meats. So don’t feel badly.

  2. The mushroom stew looks delicious! I’ve got to say, I’m a little sad that Bittman is ending his Minimalist column, to move to the Opinions section of the NY Times.

  3. Here’s an idea for a weeknight meal. Make the meal the night before. Refridgerate it. Set it in the oven when you leave in the morning with the timer preset to go in an hour. The browned meat (assuming you prepare everything the night before and brown your meat) can definitely and safely be left in the oven very cold and “warming to room temp” for one hour. Set your oven to start in an hour after you leave with a temp of 250. Let it cook for 6-8 hours are 250 and set your oven to turn off automatically (if you won’t be home when it is done,) but, be home soon… as it is not safe to leave it in the oven for too long.

  4. PS – if you have a slow cooker – the elk stew would be perfect for it! If you are afraid of the oven being on while you are away, be a crazy lady and take it to work with you and plug it in there as soon as you get in.

  5. KatyBelle – the mushroom stew is worth making, even just for the broth!

    Re: Bittman, I agree to some extent – it’s sad he won’t be regularly contributing recipes, but because it seems he’s becoming more overtly political about his stance on food, I think the Opinions section probably suits him better (his first column is a great example).

    Valerie – I will admit to you that I did not know my oven even had a timer! I’ve used my slow cooker a few times as of late for stews – I’d probably go that route instead of the oven while away…thanks for always being a cooking cheerleader!

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