Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Beef and Guinness Stew Over Mashed Potatoes

Stew. I like it. A lot. Like a lot, a lot. Because: STEW. The best part about making stew is each time you enter the kitchen there's a bit of magic that occurs. The ingredients don't have to change much, if at all, and you have a completely different dish on your hands; a different culinary adventure for your taste buds. Stew is also one of those dishes that transcend cultures in ways that a lot of other dishes simply don't; the name might change, but the concept of the dish stays the same: put stuff in a pot and cook it low and slow for x-hours. 

Side note: if you look closely at the photo you can see me in my BRIGHT PINK pants. *waves* I need less shiny spoons. Or less pink pants. I guess I could also embrace it and you all could start playing Where's Waldo with my pictures. 

Given that today is St. Patrick's Day, I need you all to say it with me: Erin Go Bragh! Also, I'm going to squeeze in a quick grammar lesson: it's Saint Patrick's Day, St. Pat's, or St. Paddy's Day - but it's not St. Patty's Day. #paddynotpatty

Thanks to the Guinness, this stew has a delightfully stout-y flavor. If you've never had a Guinness before it is, in and of itself, a meal. It's dark; vaguely coffee tasting with a slight bitter taste. Those flavors carry over into the stew - which is why there's a bit of sugar and tomato paste; a hint of sweetness to chase around the darkness of the stout. By the time you take this out of the oven you'll have mushroom and carrots that have bubbled to perfection, stew meat so tender it falls apart in your mouth - and best of all - it's served over everyone favorite (okay, it's mine) side dish: mashed potatoes. 

Beef and Guinness Stew Over Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from PBS Food


1 1/2 pounds stew beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 carrots, chopped in medium chunks
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thick sliced
2 TBSP flour
1 12-oz bottle of dark stout (such as Guinness)
2 TBSP double concentrated tomato paste
2 beef stock
2 whole sprigs of fresh thyme 
1 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp salt

Prepared mashed potatoes


Heat EVOO in a Dutch Oven over medium-low heat. Brown the meat in small batches. (Don't forget what Julia Child told us - pat the meat dry with paper towel first, otherwise it will not brown well). Once the meat is deeply browned (about 5 minutes on each side), remove it from the pot and put it aside.

Using the same pot, add onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and carrots, cooking for about 6 minutes or until they begin to brown. Season with salt, stir well to combine.

In a little bowl, stir some of the stock into the tomato paste, to dissolve it a bit. Pour the liquefied tomato paste along with the rest of the stock into the pot. Add the remaining ingredients: beer, thyme sprigs, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper. Add the meat and juices back into the pot as well. Bring the whole thing to a simmer, and then place the lid on the pot and put it in a 325F oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until the meat is tender and the sauce thickened. Don't forget to check the seasoning before you serve it, and add a bit more salt if you find the flavor a bit flat.

Let the stew cool and settle for a few minutes, then ladle generously on top of a plate mashed potatoes.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Afghan Chicken Korma (Korma-e-Murgh)

The path that led to the dish started with a quest for Seville oranges. I know, you're looking for a link and just not seeing one ... well campers, you're not alone. It's a twisty-turvy tale ... No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Food blogger goes to international market for Seville oranges (it's marmalade making season, yo) and finds none. Thinking it's a fluke she drives across town to the new international food store. Alas, no oranges. However because she's there she purchases fresh pita pockets from a local baker, because PITA POCKETS.

Cute story - no? It's not over. I grew up eating fresh pitas a lot ... it seemed like everyday, but let's not trust the memory of toddler me. Toddler / little person me also has this VIVID memory of being at preschool for some kind of parent event with LindaG where I changed an orange into an apple with the phrase "Bibitty-bobitty-boo." It was under a handkerchief at the time. Yes, I'm aware I didn't actually change one fruit into another. Not the point. Point is - LindaG has NO memory of this particular moment of my life. So - did I dream it? Make it up? Is LindaG systematically deleting the stranger moments of my early life from her memory? Bigger point - *points at self* I'm not a reliable witness to my own childhood memories, but not many among us are. 

Fresh pitas. Ate them a lot as a child. Still do when I can buy them fresh made. Trust me on this, if it's not fresh made - and by that, I mean locally - don't bother; save yourself the foodie-heartache.

The only thing that kept me from following my normal eating pattern with pitas (stuff 'em full of yummy things and chow down) was the name of the baker: Afghan Bread House. I was intrigued and immediately fell into a wild-cooking-hair spiral. I'd never had Afghani food before, and I needed it RIGHT NOW. Thus began a long, delightful, and delicious quest to fill a void in my knowledge of world cuisine.

This whole escapade started with a soliloquy about my deep love for pitas and you know what you don't see in these pictures? I ate them all. And I haven't learned how to make them. True story. I feel like this is something someone needs to show me how to do ... I mean, there's got to be a trick for getting the pocket to form, right?

This dish requires full fat greek yogurt, and if you're thinking "sure, sure" and that you'll simply replace it with nonfat ... just don't. I tried nonfat greek yogurt first because that's what I keep in the house. I tried nonfat yogurt more than once, thinking the first snafu was just me working out some kinks with a new recipe. Wrong. Use the full fat yogurt, because: it gives the korma a creamy smoothness that is muy, muy importante.

Afghan Chicken Korma (Korma-e-Murgh)


2 lbs bonesless, skinless chicken thighs trimmed of extra fat
2 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP ginger, minced
2 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white onions, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 green chile (aka: Anaheim / Hatch), finely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 - 1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
250 grams plain Greek yogurt (full fat)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained of excess juice

cooked rice


Heat vegetable oil in skillet or dutch oven over medium-low heat. Once oil has heated sautee chicken until golden brown on both sides. You will want to work in batches - never have more than two or three pieces of chicken in the skillet at once. Remove chicken and set on paper towel covered plate to absorb excess oil.

Reduce heat to low. Add ginger and garlic to the skillet and cook until fragrant. Add onions, stir to combine. Cover and let onions cook until translucent. Stir in yogurt. Add in spices and salt, stirring to combine. Return chicken to skillet, cover and cook for 8 - 10 minutes.

Add in tomatoes and chiles, stir to combine and cook until bubbling.

Serve with rice and/or pita pockets.