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Nate Cooks » 2009 » March » 11

OMG! Stew!

This past weekend was crazy warm. Not “holy shit, the ice caps are melting RIGHT NOW” warm, but definitely “walk around without a scarf and 17 sweaters” warm. Which was pleasing.

Scott and I walked to Flatbush Farm (which I now see has a cute website that reminds me of Wondermark comics, but whatever…) for brunch with some friends. Brunch was okay. I think that the unfortunate truth is that I just can’t get behind buckwheat pancakes. Ah well. So, even though it was warm, on the walk back my mind inexplicably turned to stew. Perhaps my subconscious figured I should at least get one last good stew in before the warm weather is here for really-real.

I didn’t really feel like the old-skool beef ‘n Guinness this time so I started out using a recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s Elements of Slow Cooking, a book that I got for Christmas but hadn’t tried out yet. It called for red wine, which was good since Scott decided he didn’t like tempranillo after having bought two bottles of the stuff for a spanish-themed dinner party where we ended up knocking back cocktails instead. The recipe also called for lamb shanks, but I wasn’t all that into the idea of bone-in lamb, so I got some stew meat instead. Finally, I kind of chuckled at the idea of using fresh tomatoes in March, so I whipped out a can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes instead.

The result? Pure AWESOME. Hands down, one of the best stews I’ve ever made.

Here’s the breakdown:

3 lbs of lamb pieces ($20.97)
1/2 cup of flour ($1.79 for a 2lb bag)
1/4 tsp salt ($2.19 for a 48 oz box)
1/4 tsp pepper ($0.99 for a 2.25oz jar)
2 tbs oil ($9.99 for bottle of olive oil)
2 tbs butter ($1.99 for 2 sticks)
1 BIG yellow onion ($1.81)
3 carrots ($0.83)
4 ribs of celery ($2.49 a head)
4 cloves of garlic ($0.75 a head)
1.5 cups red wine ($12.00 for a bottle)
1 cup chicken stock ($1.59 a can)
1 can tomatoes ($1.79 a can)
1 tbs fresh rosemary ($1.49 a bunch)
1/2 tsp dried thyme ($0.79 a jar)
3 juniper berries ($3.29 a jar)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper ($0.79)
1/2 tsp curry powder ($0.79)

TOTAL: $66.33 (6 servings)
The fun and games start by dredging the lamb pieces in flour that’s been salted and peppered. The recipe called for browning the meat in a skillet with oil and butter and then transferring everything to a dutch oven, but that seemed overly fussy to me, so I just browned everything in the dutch oven.

While the meat was browning I chopped up the onion, carrots,  celery, and garlic. Once the meat was done, I tossed all the veggies in and let them soften for about five minutes.

Then I dumped in the wine, stock, the aforementioned tomatoes,  rosemary, thyme,  juniper berries, red pepper, and  curry powder just to be fancy. Once it boiled, I put it in the oven covered for about 3 hours at 300 degrees, then pulled it off and let it simmer on low on the stove top for another half hour.

Mmmm… vodka sauce.

One of my favorite weeknight comfort foods is pasta. And one of my favorite sauces is vodka sauce. Something about the naughtiness of having BOTH heavy cream and booze in my tomato sauce makes me happy.

Sadly as it probably has approximately 30,000 calories, I don’t have it that often. But it’s so easy to make, that it’s easy to whip up spur-of-the-moment. Here’s my normal recipe:

Vodka Sauce

  • 1 tsp olive oil ($9.99 a bottle)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped ($.75 a head)
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce - look for just tomatoes, no spices or whatever ($1.59 a can)
  • 3 tbs vodka ($2 for a nip or $28 a bottle for the Ketel One we have hanging around)
  • 3 tbs heavy cream ($3.39 a pint)

TOTAL: $17.72 (3 servings)

Start by heating the olive oil in a big skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic for a minute or so, making sure it doesn’t burn.

Add the can of tomatoes and let it boil down, for about 7-10 minutes or so. Then stir in the vodka, let that come to a boil and the alcohol burn off. Finally add the cream, stir it until it’s well incorporated into the sauce and let it boil again.

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