Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Round Two beef stew Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Round Two beef stew

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 Round Two beef stew
A ration of leftover standing rib roast inspires a quick, simple and relatively light variation on traditional beef stew.
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Round Two beef stew

A small, two-bone standing rib roast may not make the vast supply of neverending leftovers that you can expect from a ham or a turkey in a family of two, but even this relatively sensible alternative provides enough extra beef for two or three lighter meals after the holiday feast.

When we pushed back from the Christmas table, happily full of rare beef and red wine, we had hardly made a dent in a four-pound roast. What to do with the leftovers? The solid, bright-pink central "eye" portion was simple: Slice it into four single-serving steaks, wrap them tightly in butcher paper, and save for another dinner. Well, two more dinners.

That left the darker, scrappier but undeniably delicious outer portions to consider. A little more well-done than the eye portion, oddly shaped and lined with fat and a bit of gristle, it wouldn't make much of a steak. Better to trim it, cut it into 1-inch cubes, and save it for ... hmmm. Something Italian, shredded with tomatoes over pasta? Something Chinese, in a spicy stir-fry? Then inspiration struck: Beef stew for Boxing Day!

Hearty and warming, comfort food for a winter day, beef stew is usually made from tough braising cuts that require long simmering to achieve tenderness and give up their flavor. But why not start with finer stuff, these leftover cubes from the noble rib roast? Already cooked, they require no more attention than warming through; and this quick-and-simple approach suggests a quicker, lighter-weight variation on stew that brings all the traditional flavors to the table but presents them in a lighter, fresher style.

At that point, everything fell into place: Saute onions and garlic, add celery and carrots and a bit of fresh herbs. Parboil potatoes, get some peas ready, then bring all the ingredients together in a fresh broth, simmer just until the veggies are done, adding the beef at the last moment so it just warms through.


INGREDIENTS:

(Serves two)

1 medium (8 to 10 ounces/240-300g) baking potato
1-2 cups (240-480ml) beef broth.
Onion, enough to make 1/2 cup (120g) when chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
2 carrots
1 stalk celery
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
8-10 ounces leftover cooked roast beef
2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
Dried red-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon (3g) fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt
Black pepper
1 tablespoon arrowroot (preferred) or cornstarch for thickening.


PROCEDURE:

1. Peel the potato, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes, and simmer them in salted water for 5 to 10 minutes or until partially cooked. Drain off the water and pour the beef broth over the potatoes. Use from 1 to 2 cups broth, depending on whether you prefer a thicker stew or a more soup-like preparation.

2. Peel the onion and chop it crosswise so it falls into thin slivers. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel the carrots and cut them into thick "coins." Slice the celery crosswise into slices of similar thickness. Shell or thaw the peas. Reserve all these vegetables in separate bowls or plates.

3. Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes, discarding any excess fat.

4. Put the olive oil in a soup pot and place it over medium-high heat. Saute the chopped onions and minced garlic with the dried red-pepper flakes until the onions turn translucent; add the sliced celery and continue cooking until it heats through; then do the same with the sliced carrots. Add the thyme leaves.

5. Pour in the potatoes and broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Stir in the tomato paste. Check seasoning and add a little salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary; be careful with the salt, as you many not need any if your broth is salty. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook at a light simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots and celery are cooked through.

6. When the soup has about 10 minutes left to cook, add the peas. Toward the end of cooking, add the beef, simmering just long enough for it to warm through.

7. Mix the arrowroot or cornstarch with enough water to make a thin paste, and stir it in to the simmering stew, a little at a time, using just enough to thicken the liquid slightly. Serve steaming hot, with crusty rolls or bread and a light salad if you wish.

MATCHING WINE: Any good, acidic red wine will do, and a bit of tannic astringency wouldn't be amiss with the beef. It was fine with a modest Italian "Super Tuscan," Tenuta del Fondatore 2000 "Stroncoli" Toacana Rosso.


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Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Simple gifts - shortbread (Dec. 20, 2007)
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