Thursday, November 13, 2008

Annivesary Dinner: Beef stew with shiitake mushrooms and fall salad with dried cherries, apples and walnuts

Last night was the boyfriend and my 2 year anniversary. Go us! In honor of that, I decided to cook a big dinner. It's been a bit cold and dreary this week, so beef stew seemed like a hearty and comforting option, and a fall salad seemed like a perfect and light seasonal accompaniment.

I looked at several beef stew recipes, and I chose one from epicurious because it got rave reviews and tons of mushrooms and wine in it. Sounded delish to me! The fall salad caught my attention because it had dried cherries in it, which I adore. I adapted both recipes somewhat based on what ingredients I had access to.

Beef Stew with Shiitake Mushrooms and Vegetables
Adapted from Epicurious.com

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour (enough to coat all the beef)
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 sticks) butter
  • 3 pounds trimmed boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cups dry red wine
  • 29 oz beef broth (nearly an entire carton)
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 pound baby red-skinned potatoes, quartered
  • 30 baby carrots, chopped in half
  • 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps thickly sliced
  • 1/2 pound mixed mushrooms (come pre-sliced)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or 1 tablespoon dried

Preparation

Place flour in baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, coat meat with flour; add to pot and brown on all sides. Using slotted spoon, transfer to plate.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in same pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.

Mix in tomato paste, then wine. Bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add broth and sugar, then beef and any accumulated juices. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer 1 1/2 hours.

Add potatoes and carrots; simmer uncovered until meat and vegetables are almost tender, about 25 minutes.

Add mushrooms and 3 tablespoons marjoram; simmer until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Cover, chill. Before serving, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.)

I don't own a Dutch oven, so I used a large pot, and although it was a bit crowded, it worked just fine. I way underestimated how long it would take to chop up the beef, coat it, and brown it. That took me at least 30 minutes, so the overall cooking process took me about 2.5 hours. Long, but worth it, as the final dish was so yummy, and I expect the leftovers to taste even better. I skipped the squash because it seemed like overkill with so many carrots, potatoes and mushrooms. I received a nasty case of sticker-shock when I saw how pricey shiitake mushrooms are, so I ended up substituting in 2 of those little mixed mushroom packages.

In the end, this was the perfect "show your man you love him" hearty cold weather dish. Probably easier to make on a weekend or with a crock pot, but regardless, this recipe is a keeper.

Apple, Dried Cherry, and Walnut Salad with Maple Dressing

Ingredients

  • Maple Dressing
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (I substituted Misses Butterworth's!)
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or other white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Salad

  • 1 5-ounce bag mixed baby greens (about 10 cups lightly packed)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Preparation

For dressing:

Whisk mayonnaise, maple syrup, vinegar, and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil until mixture thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Dressing can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewhisk before using.)

For salad:

Toss greens, apples, cherries, and 1/4 cup walnuts in large bowl to combine. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Divide salad equally among plates. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup walnuts and serve.

I realized too late that what I thought was maple syrup was actually molasses, so instead I used my sugar-free Miss's Butterworth's syrup. Crazy, I know, but the dressing had a great, sweet maple flavor, and hell, I avoided a lot of sugar, so that's not all bad. I think this recipe makes way too much dressing, so next time, I'd halve it. As expected this salad tasted of autumn, and I loved the addition of dried cherries, which are so much more interesting than dried cranberries that are so ubiquitous in salads these days.

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