Everything a Weekend Meal Should Be

October 6, 2008

The weekend before last I was reminded how lovely—how decadent—a weekend could be. During my three years of law school, “weekend” was a loose term. Rather, each semester felt like a marathon, with cases and topics and outlines piling on like so many miles to be run. Sure, you could stop for a pit stop here and there, but a full-scale rest wasn’t feasible—you might never finish the race. The bar exam was even worse. And then there were the breaks—winter break, spring break, summer break, post bar exam weeks. During those times, the days just blended together into a seemingly endless weekend. So after my first full week of work, I signed off my computer and marveled at the notion of having Nothing To Do until Monday.  Exactly two days of much-needed rest.

Unsurprisingly, I filled my weekend with a number of baking and cooking projects. You’ve already heard about the biscotti and the roasted pumpkin. But there was this beef stew too. We also reveled in a delicious dinner out, caught up on the TV shows waiting patiently on our DVR, ate yogurt topped with the very best granola two breakfasts in a row, jogged through the neighborhood’s quieter streets, and visited the farmers’ market. It was restful and restorative and, well, I have a sneaking suspicion that weekends (the work-free ones, at least) just might turn into my favorite part of my new job.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Compared to that indulgent weekend, the one that just ended couldn’t have been more different. We drove to Minnesota on Saturday, said a quick hello to my parents, went to a wedding and turned around and drove home to Chicago on Sunday morning. Our hours in the car outnumbered our waking hours in Minnesota. Fun it was, but restful and restorative it was not. So I’m road weary and exhausted. And that has me craving the next weekend, which I hope will involve some serious comfort and maybe another bowl of this stew, with its rustic chunks of carrot, parsnip and potato and meaty jewels of sirloin perched in an herbed, red wine-spiked broth. Rich, earthy, incredibly hearty and soothing, it’s everything an autumn weekend meal should be.

Beef Stew
Adapted from Food & Wine

Note: The original recipe calls for short ribs, but the store I went to didn’t have any.  I used sirloin instead.  I’d love to try it with short ribs next time.

3 1/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs or sirloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups dry red wine
3 cups veal or chicken stock
6 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
8 sage leaves, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, toss the beef with the flour. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Working in batches, cook the short ribs over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 6 minutes per batch. Discard the oil.

Return the meat and any juices to the casserole. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, 8 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the meat is tender, 2 hours.

Skim any fat from the stew. Stir in the carrots, potatoes, parsnips, onion, mushrooms, thyme and sage. Cover and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


14 Responses to “Everything a Weekend Meal Should Be”

  1. sue bette Says:

    I’ve been craving a dish like this the last few days, it must be the cooler days creeping in. I was thinking I’d try it out in the crock-pot – have you had any success with that method?

  2. Lavonne Says:

    Looks great! I’ll try your recipe next time. I like the addition of the parsnips.

  3. Kimberly Says:

    I found your recipe while perusing foodgawker in an attempt to figure out what to make for dinner. Just finished of a bowl tonight and boy is it good! Unfortunatly I had to leave out the parsnips because my small town grocery didn’t have them. I’m intrigued now and will head in to the city for parsnips next time I make your recipe. It’s a keeper!

  4. Olga Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever made a beef stew…something to consider 🙂
    With the weather getting cold, this would be perfect for lunch or dinner w/some french bread.

  5. Kari Says:

    Perfect for fall!

  6. Great winter comfort food – I love the sirloin switch. I guess I will just have to make it both ways 🙂

  7. Melissa Says:

    I love every ingredient in that thing. Simple perfection.

    Glad you have “real” weekends now. God knows I can’t imagine not having that distinct resting period between Friday and Monday. Hope the new job is going well!

  8. I just bought stew meat so this sounds perfect! Thanks!

  9. sue bette: My crock pot is so unused it’s sad. I should make a point of using it more this winter. If you try this using yours, let us know how it goes.

    Lavonne: The parsnips were a lovely addition. Hope you give this a try!

    Kimberly: Yay! I’m so glad you liked it. Thanks for the (practically instant!) feedback. And, next time, I think you’ll love the addition of parsnips.

    Olga: It’s a fun thing to make — low maintenance, but really homey and fragrant and satisfying. And, yes, some sort of bread for dipping is highly recommended. : )

    Kari: Yes!

    Cathy: Absolutely! Let me know how you think they compare.

    Melissa: That was my reaction too! How could it be bad?

    The Topiary Lady: Let us know how it goes (went?)!

  10. Gena Says:

    I saw this and HAD to make it. Which I did. Last night. And it was the perfect meal for a cool, rainy fall evening. Unfortunately (or fortunately), there is A TON of it…so it looks like we’ll be having this hearty feast for the rest of the week!

    Thanks for yet another delicious recipe. You really are saving my from the endless rotation of Thai. pizza, and Chinese.

  11. Rachel Says:

    I am a 3L so I totally understand the marathon/endless weekend thing…I am so not looking forward to giving up all of my student freedom next year, but you’re right–it will be nice to have homework free weekends!

    And it’s encouraging that you’re still finding the time to cook!

  12. Dawn Says:

    Oh my, this looks so good! I’ve been swamped at work and so have only stopped briefly by your blog lately. But I am enjoying playing “catch up!” Short ribs are one of my favorite slow-cooked meats: tender and super-flavorful. I am looking forward to trying this recipe, just as soon as it gets a tad cooler here in No. Cal.

  13. Haley Says:

    I’m jealous of your relaxing weekend and of this stew! This is what fall stews should look like! Yum!

    We would love to feature this tasty stew on our blog and possibly on our digital recipe reader! If interested email me at haleyglasco@gmail.com

  14. Gena: Yay! Good work. Consider freezing some of the surplus …

    Rachel: Yes, the cooking continues!

    Dawn: I’m a big short rib lover too. I need to try this again soon with teh short ribs.

    Haley: Thanks!

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