Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cardamon Braised Beef Stew

Hope you enjoyed Ms. Piccante Dolce's guest blog yesterday! I know I'll be trying her recipe. And check out her site regularly for other great meal ideas and cooking tips. Now onto more divalicious business - I know you guys are craving another recipe. Last night, I was watching my Tivo'd Oprah episode (she's quite a diva!). She had on celebrity chefs to teach families how to make healthy, cost conscious meals. Can you believe they found a family that subsisted entirely on frozen dinners? Or, a family who ordered takeout six nights a week at a cost of over $50 a night? But, I suppose, the American eating problem is bigger than any of us even know. Thank god, Oprah intervened.

However, if I'm being totally truthful, I thought most of the food featured on the show either wasn't as healthy as it should have been, lacking enough vegetables, or didn't look that delicious. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who instead of making a lifestyle choice to embrace eating in a whole new way, try to make "healthier" versions of junk foods staples, like burgers and pizza. If you ask me, that's only a temporary stop gap solution before the inevitable slippery slope slide back into old habits. I also noticed that in an effort to show how "cheap" cooking for yourself could be, they avoided the "organic" issue altogether, opting for the cheapest bargains on meats they could find at the grocery store. If that's your cup of tea or if it's all you can afford, then who am I to judge, but my approach to cooking is a little bit different.

I believe that it's important to embrace a whole new way of cooking - one that gets the best out of your ingredients - and one that your whole family can share in the experience of eating. I also believe that it's worth spending a few dollars more, especially when it comes to meat and poultry, to buy "organic," or at the very least, "all natural." I won't digress into a rant about this here, but if you'd like some tips on how to shop organic affordably - and why you should be doing it - check out this blog post I wrote earlier this month (click here). Almost every ingredient I cook with on this blog is organic, especially the poultry and the meats.

In the spirit of the Oprah episode - and her challenge to those chefs to find inexpensive meals your family will love - I offer this staple from my repertoire: Domestic Diva's Cardamon Braised Beef Stew. Continuing with my Charlie Trotter cooking week, this is a dish also inspired by him, particularly the use of cardamon. In the ginger family, this is one of the most underused spices that you should always have in your cupboard. It's great for flavoring meats, or I use it when I make roast squash soup. You can buy the actual cardamon pods, which I make use of in this recipe, or you can buy it ground. If you can't find the pods, you can substitute 1/2 tsp ground cardamon into the recipe.

I also use organic stew beef in this recipe, which typically costs less than $8 a pound. It's a great way to get some organic, lean red meat into your diet without breaking the bank. Also, because this is a "one pot" meal, the prep time is minimal and the clean up is minimal as well. You can prep it, throw it in the oven, and that's it! This dish is delicious, filling, and, more importantly, it's affordable and can feed a family of four for under $20. Because this recipe doesn't use green vegetables, I always recommend pairing it with a salad, as I did, or with some steamed vegetables, such as broccoli or green beans.

Domestic Diva's Cardamon Braised Beef Stew

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 lb organic stew beef
1/2 cup dry red wine
6 small potatoes chopped (new or yukon gold work great)
3 garlic cloves
1 cup crimini mushrooms halved
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp cardamon pods in packet (directions below - you need cheesecloth and kitchen twine)
bunch of rosemary
3 cups filtered water
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a braising pan, add the olive oil over medium high heat. Then, add the onion, carrots and celery, cooking until lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, to make the cardamon packet, cut a piece of cheesecloth, about 3 inches by 3 inches. Place the cardamon pods in the center of the cloth.

Then, gather the ends, and tie the packet closed with kitchen twine.

Add the beef, stirring it around until browned, about 3 minutes.

Add the red wine and reduce it over high heat until reduced in half, about 4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, garlic cloves, potatoes, water, rosemary and cardamon packet.

Cover and place in the oven, braising for about 90 minutes, or until the beef is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

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