Stews for Stewarts

December 9 – December 16, 2022

Friday:                 Baked Fish Chowder

Saturday:              Pizza from Local Provisions

Sunday:                Ultimate Beef Stew

Tuesday:               Penne with Hunter-Style Pasta Sauce (Hazan – p. 156)

Wednesday:       Hanoi Chicken Soup

Friday:                    Sheet-Pan Salmon and Ginger (NYT Arts Section 12/10

Note:  A very great lady passed away last week, the mother of good friends of ours, who were among her 13 children.  She also had 84 grandchildren and 168 great grandchildren.  And there was something special about her character as well – as our friend Ambrose said, “When Mrs. D walked into the room, you stood up a little straighter.”  Exactly.

Stews for Stewarts

Ina Garten strikes again with comfort food that really comforts everyone.  I recently cooked three of her dishes – a beef stew, a chicken stew and a chowder.     This was so energizing that I’m considering putting up the outside lights and decorating the tree, about which Beez has been nudging me for some time.*

*My way of decorating a tree, with lights around the trunk and on the inner branches as well as the outer is exhausting, sticky (pine resin), painful (needles), but absolutely magical in its results.  If you do it correctly, you’ll see the shadows of the needles and branches on the ceiling of the room, when you turn off all but the Christmas lights.

One of Ina’s most recent cookbooks is entitled Modern Comfort Food and is worth every penny you’ll spend for it.  You may not like celebrity chefs, but Ina is different – she began as a food store owner, then became a cook (by necessity – the store sold prepared foods), then a cookbook writer and finally, after turning down the Food Network’s first ten or so offers to become a TV host, she gave in.  The rest is history – a history you can use to cook some of the tastiest food on earth (at least, to this American palate) for your friends, your family, or just yourself.  I’ve thought of another possibility – you could open a restaurant, or buy a food truck and cook for complete strangers.  Trust me, they will like Ina’s food unless they’re very strange.

Surveying our menus for the last ten days or so to select a recipe for this post, it was a toss-up between the baked fish chowder and the ultimate beef stew from Modern Comfort Food.  So, we literally tossed a coin – I opting for the chowder and Beez pulling for the beef stew and also wanting to receive on kick-off, while I chose to defend the southern end-zone, the one facing the open-end of the stadium and the Allegheny River, with the swirling wind that makes kicking a field goal rather hinky.  Wait – I’m mixing up the Steelers game with the food – which is what happens around here on Sundays anyway, with Billy and Rick showing up after the game and a round or two at the Bulldog Pub.  But last Sunday, Beez and I showed up after the game as well, having attended as guests of our friends Becky and Tom.

Barbara won the coin toss, as did the ultimate beef stew.  Our attendance at the Steelers game necessitated cooking the stew the day before.  Which is when you should cook this recipe – it will taste better and you’ll have time, if you refrigerate it, to get rid of most of the congealed fat and gel which makes short ribs so tasty by themselves, but a bit of a problem in stew.  Enjoy, and I hope your team wins except when playing Pittsburgh.

Note:  The greatest World Cup Final I’ve ever seen took place on Sunday morning.  The brilliant Lionel Messi and Argentina defeated the brilliant Kylian Mbappé and France on penalty kicks.  It’s a pity either team had to lose, but I was pulling for Argentina and the great Messi to win.

Further Note:  Scroll down beyond the menu to see Murph’s (he’s Andrew’s dog) latest expression of individuality.

Ultimate Beef Stew

(adapted from Ina Garten, Modern Comfort Food)


3 Hours* – we suggest cooking the day before, then de-greasing and reheating

*3 hours, that is If you’re fairly  adept at butchering meat, if not give yourself another 20 minutes or so

Ingredients:        Serves 6, 8 if you have hors d’oeuvres and salad

3 lbs. boneless short ribs, cut into 1 ½ inch chunks

2 cups chopped yellow onions

2 cups chopped fennel

1 lb. carrots, cut ½ inch thick, diagonally

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, 1-inch diced

10 ounces frozen peas

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup hearty red wine, divided

2 cups beef broth

4 ounces small-diced pancetta (Ina points out that Citterio makes a 4-ounce package of perfectly diced pancetta – we buy this regularly at Giant Eagle)

¼ cup cognac or brandy

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with juice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 300 F

Chop and dice and mince all vegetables except the potatoes and carrots (they go into the stew after its cooked for a good while).

Cut short ribs into pieces.  Note:  You will see some hard fat in the ribs – cut as much of this away as you can, it will make degreasing much easier.  If you end up with smaller pieces of short rib, don’t worry.  1” is about the optimum size.

Open can of diced tomatoes, measure out broth, red wine, cognac or brandy.


Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven over medium.  Add pancetta and cook until browned – 5 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel.

While the pancetta is cooking season the short ribs all over with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  In two or three batches (don’t crowd) brown the meat over medium turning until browned on all sides – about 7 minutes per batch – transferring each batch to a bowl.  We needed three batches.  You’re looking for a lot of color here.  Don’t worry about any burny bits stuck to the pan – you’ll de-glaze with the wine.

Move the pan off the heat and add the cognac and 1/3 cup of the wine to de-glaze, scraping up any browned bits (a wooden spoon is perfect for this).  Simmer this concoction on medium for one minute [i.e., for one minute after you bring it to a simmer, which will not take long].

Now add the onions and fennel and cook, stirring from time to time, for 8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.  Note:  I turn down the heat just a bit when I add the garlic and stir continuously since I don’t want it to burn and get bitter.

Stir the tomatoes and then the tomato paste in, add the remaining 2/3 cup of wine, the beef broth, the meat and its juices, and then 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Bring to a simmer, then cover and bake in the oven for 75 minutes.  Check from time to time to make sure the liquid is simmering – I had to raise the temperature of our oven.

Degrease the stew.  At this point, if you’re cooking the day before, let the stew cool and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  If you’re cooking straight through read on and you’ll see your next step.  Note:  put the reserved pancetta in a baggie, you won’t need it until you finish the stew on the next day.

The next day, preheat the oven to 300 or a bit more.  Now remove as much congealed fat as you can.  If you lose a few bits of onion or meat doing this, that’s okay. Take your time – this is painstaking but worth it.  Put the stew back on the stove and bring to a simmer.

While the stew is coming to a simmer chop your carrots and potatoes and, when it is simmering, stir into the stew, let it come back to a simmer, then cover and put back in the oven for one hour – until the vegetables and meat are very tender (test with a fork).  Just before serving, stir in the peas and the reserved pancetta, correct the seasonings – again, take your time.  Serve hot in large shallow bowls with good crusty bread to dip and sop.

Andrew’s Murph in a pose Billy dubbed “Sun Dog Chillionnaire

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