December 21, 2020 – January 3, 2021
Friday: Christmas Dinner with Greg, Kellie, Mike, Andrew, Beez and me (no pictures, alas)
Snow on the ground, rib roast standing inside, happiness
Saturday: Roast Beef Hash with Potato Pancakes
Sunday: Beez’s Wonderful Brunch, Poached Eggs over Muffins and Left-Over Frazzled Hot Capicola with Melted Cheddar (forgot to take a picture)
December 28, 2020 – January 3, 2021
Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Thursday: Julie’s for New Year’s Eve Dinner
Friday: New Year’s Day Dinner – Kraut, Pork Chops, Brats, Mashed Potatoes
Sunday: Slavonian Shepherd’s Stew – Milk Street
Well, our resolution for the New Year was to publish our blog posts in a timely manner and here we find ourselves doing just that. I know that some among you will cavil at this statement – you know who you are – noting a week-long gap in posts. How, you ask, can that be resolute? Listen, bub, nobody is perfect – human resolution means getting back up on the horse (or, in our case, the internet) after you’ve fallen off.
In fact, we proudly admit that, during the week after Christmas, we lost all sense of time and didn’t publish a post. This, it strikes us, is concrete proof that our hearts and minds were in the right place, celebrating Christmas with family and friends and ignoring all lesser concerns. You gotta problem with Christmas?
Sorry for that tantrum. Let’s begin again. We did, in spite of ignoring the food blog, have some fine dinners over the last two weeks. We’ve listed some above.
Last Thursday we had an extraordinary dinner at Julie’s on New Year’s Eve. For the past (35 years?) we have been gathering with around a dozen folks to celebrate that night. But in this plague year, Julie gathered a mere remnant of us – Tim, Hilda, Beez and me. Julie cooked a meal that many restaurant staffs could not have put together, and none would have cooked so well. We’ve included an image of a spectacular tasting and spectacular-looking appetizer.
We also spent a happy night at Tim and Hilda’s – a tradition we’ve been upholding for (40 years?) – exchanging gifts and, last week, eating delicious pizzas from a new restaurant in the ‘hood. (Brick and Barrel – located in the former Cross Keys Inn.)
But in the long-run of wonderful Christmas and holiday food, very little beat Sunday night’s Slavonian-Style Shepherd’s Stew. This was such good food that, if my knees weren’t so bad, I’d consider moving to Croatia and taking a position as shepherd. It involves more paprika than I have ever used in any two recipes, and it works wonderfully. If you’re looking for warm, savory comfort on a cold night this winter, tuck into this and say a prayer for those shepherds, hiking up the hills of Croatia on arthritic knees. (This last sentence is a form what Alfred Adler would have called projection. Remind me to tell you, sometime, about my days as an astronaut walking on the moon with these knees or, even more painful, my days skiing moguls.)
Slavonian-Style Shepherd’s Stew
(adapted from Milk Street Radio)
Timing: 3 hours – but look, less than one hour of this is active cooking or prep
2 ½ pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes. [Note: today’s supermarkets often provide only ‘lean’ stew meat. That will work, but if you can find more marbled stuff, use that. Also, take the time to trim any hard fat from the stew meat and to cut any larger pieces down to bite-sized.]
2 medium yellow-onions, or one of those big honkers most markets sell, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and shredded on a box grater (use the larger holes)
2 medium parsnips, peeled and shredded as above [We could not find parsnips and used celeriac, instead – I think the parsnips would be better.]
3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley – stems minced, leaves chopped and reserved separately
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons tomato paste, divided [Get a small can of tomato paste, if you can. The double-concentrate in the tube will be too assertive in this dish – but it will be okay, if that’s all you have.]
¼ cup plus two tablespoons sweet paprika, divided
1 tablespoon hot paprika (substitute – 1 teaspoon cayenne)
3 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine
6 cups of water
2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 bunch of dill, finely chopped
Toss beef with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper in a bowl and set aside.
Grate carrots, parsnips and put in a bowl with smashed garlic cloves
Measure out 2 separate amounts of tomato paste into 2 tablespoons each
Measure out wine, sweet paprika (in two amounts – see ‘ingredients’ above), and hot paprika
Measure out 6 cups of water
Get parsley and dill out. Mince the parsley stems, but hold off chopping the parsley leaves or dill until the beef and other vegetables are nearly cooked.
Add the onions and olive oil to a large Dutch oven over medium. (You may need to turn the heat down, after a while.) Cook, stirring from time to time, until softened – not browned.
Now add the carrots, parsnips, garlic and parsley stems and cook, stirring from time to time, until lightly browned – 10 minutes or so.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of the tomato paste (reserving the other 2) and cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 seconds, until it begins to brown – if it sticks to the bottom of the pot, that actually creates more flavor.
Now whisk in the wine and the 6 cups of water. Bring this to a simmer over medium high, stirring often.
Now stir in the beef, bring back to a simmer, then reduce to low, cover and cook until beef is tender (a skewer or knife should meet no resistance going through the meat) – about 2 hours. Stir, from time to time (after you first bring to a simmer, then after 15 minutes, then every half-hour or so).
Turn of the heat and tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid and skim off and discard as much fat as possible. [Note: We used that darn ‘lean’ stew meat and didn’t have to skim.]. Remove bay leaves.
In a medium bowl, stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and the 2 tablespoons of paprika and mustard together. Whisk a good ladleful or two of the cooking liquid into that mixture and then stir the mixture into the pot.
Now return to a simmer over medium-high and then stir in the parsley leaves and half of the dill. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.
Put into bowls, sprinkle with remaining dill and serve with a good, crusty bread or warmed pita.
Note: The Milk Street recipe calls for cooking dumplings in the stew, after the last step above. We are not dumpling fans – one of the two knocks on the food of the Czech Republic that we’ve eaten – but you can find this recipe on line at Milk Street Radio, if you are.