Monday, December 22, 2008

Beef Stew, Dumplings and Pancetta Mashed Potato

I like to repay favours with meals. So I promised to have my friend J over for dinner. I left my car at his place for 7 months, then 3 weeks and now again for the holidays. I’m also getting a ride to Montréal with my roommate G and he lives with me, so I included him too. I have promised many more meals in the new year for various things.

I’ve never made roast chicken and the idea appealed to me, especially because our meal was on a Sunday. I still gave G two options: roast chicken or a stew. Being the WASP that he is, he picked a stew. I asked if he wanted mashed potatoes and he said his (British) mother made dumplings AND mashed potatoes. I’m sorry but I’m Asian; I only eat dumplings at dim sum! But for G, I found a recipe for dumplings that I made and ate for the first time.

Beef Stew – 4 servings
I grew up eating an Asian version of beef stew that we called ragoût, or bò kho in Vietnamese. I make beef stew on a regular basis in the winter. I follow a pretty basic recipe: beef, carrots, vegetable and red wine. This time I tried to “fancy it up” with butter and bacon. I referred to a few recipes, and combined two of them. This is a perfect “make ahead” recipe. I made it the night before and heated it up the next day.

Adapted from
Ricardo’s Slow Cooked Beef with Red Wine
Laura Calder’s Beef with Carrots

* 3 strips of bacon, cut into pieces
* butter
* flour
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 2 pounds of stewing beef cubes
* 1 large onion, sliced thinly
* 4 garlic cloves, sliced roughly
* 1 cup of red wine
* 1-½ chicken broth
* 1-½ diced canned tomatoes
* bay leaf
* 3 sprigs parsley
* 3 sprigs thyme
* 4 peppercorns
* 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
* sugar
* dried chili flakes, optional

In a big pot, cook the bacon until crispy and remove them.
Meanwhile, mix flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Dredge pieces of beef into the flour mixture.
Add butter into the pot and brown the pieces of beef in batches. (Note: I cooked the beef in the bacon fat but found it created blackened, burned pieces so you should use separate pots, or give it a quick clean before browning the beef).
Repeat until all the beef is browned and set aside.

Slicing the bacon into pieces.

Cooking the bacon.

The three key ingredients.

Stewing beef cubes and then dredged.

Browning the beef.

Browned meat always looks good!

Add a bit more butter, and sauté the onion and garlic.
Add the wine and scrape all the brown bits (and hopefully not black!).
Add the chicken broth and tomatoes.
Bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer and add bay leaf, parsley, thyme, peppercorns.
Add back the beef and bacon.
Add red wine vinegar.
Let simmer for 4-5 hours until the beef is fork tender, adding water as needed (you can also cook this in the oven; I just don’t have an oven proof pot).
Add the potatoes and carrot with about an hour left to cooking.
Taste and season with salt, pepper, chili flakes and sugar, according to taste (I added sugar because I thought the tomatoes and vinegar made it a bit too acidic).

Sauté onion and garlic.

Adding the beef and bacon back in.

Hmmm! I like stew!

Anna Olson's Fluffy Dumplings
As I mentioned, dumplings is a foreign concept to me. Luckily, I found a very easy recipe and it worked out perfectly. I like how the use of the herbs give flecks of green that make it so pretty. I halved the recipe since we were only 3 people.

From Fresh with Anna Olson:
Fluffy Dumplings

Drop spoonfuls into the simmering stew.

Cover for 10 minutes and voilà!

The dumplings grew on me!

Pancetta Mashed Potatoes - 3 servings
Is it embarrassing that I get all my recipes from food TV shows? Why stop here? I knew that I wanted bacon in the potatoes since my friend C loved her bacon mashed potatoes at The Bison Mountain Bistro. So I looked for a mashed potato recipe with bacon. I have a not so good history with mashed potatoes. Growing up, I went to daycare that served lunch. Every day, we were served mashed potatoes, a meat and overcooked vegetables. I absolutely hated mashed potatoes (or patates pilées as I knew it). I don't eat it really anymore except in shepherd's pie but bacon (or cheese) does make it much better!

Adapted from:
* 50 g (2 oz.) pancetta - I got pancetta at the deli counter of my supermarket because I didn't want to buy a package of bacon
* 3 tbsp garlic butter
* green onion
* ¾ cup full fat milk
* salt and pepper, to taste

Boil potatoes until cooked.
Meanwhile, cook pancetta until crispy.
Cook green onion in melted garlic butter (I happened to have some and thought the extra garlic flavour would be good).
Turn off the heat and add in milk.
Mash the potatoes.
Add the milk mixture to the potatoes and mix. (I would add the milk a bit at a time. I think mine came out too liquid-ey).
Add crumbled pancetta to the mashed potatoes and mix.
Season with salt and pepper (after adding the pancetta because it is quite salty!).

I find pancetta so pretty!

And I love crispy, super salty pancetta!

Green onion in butter!

I just mash the potatoes with a fork.

Finished product!

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