Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beef Stew and Snow

Merritt snow It hasn't been a terribly snowy winter, in my opinion. Sure we got hit around Christmas, but then it all melted away.

That all changed this morning when the brief squalls the weatherman predicted turned into full on snow for the morning commute. Yeah, 2.5 hours later I made it to the office. I tried to focus on the fact that I wasn't smashed up and the trees were pretty, which helped me manage.

All along I'd been telling people they could thank me for the lack of snow since this was the year I finally let Hubby buy a snow blower. In fact, as soon as he took it out of the box I was assuring people it would be an easy winter.

Now I must accept the fact that this burst of bad weather might also be my fault. See, I made beef stew last night. We usually make it once or twice during the winter. We haven't made it so far this season and I finally did it last night, even though it's been warm.

Give Me Wine!
I've been a domestic goddess lately. Well, aside from the whole cleaning the house thing, so I hope mom doesn't have her hopes up too high for her visit this weekend.

No. My wonderfulness has been confined to picking up the destroying the kitchen slack since Hubby has been so busy with the end of the grading period.

My stew making has been thwarted recently because Hubby wouldn't fork over a bottle of wine. I would no sooner go digging through his wine fridge than he would mess with my yarn, so it was quite an impasse.

Finally, last night I went into the liquor store next to our dry cleaners and told the guy I need "a yummy, inexpensive wine for my beef stew."

He showed me the $6 Sutter Home. I went, "Uhhh," because I couldn't remember whether Hubby would drink it. The guy offered me something cheaper. I said I was willing to pay more since I'd be drinking it as well.

He showed me the $8 Woodbridge from Mondavi. I balked again because I know Hubby runs hot and cold on Mondavi wines.

He showed me the $10 Cab Sauv from McManis, told me it was delicious, and confirmed they were still family owned. (as it says right on the label.) I went with that one because I'd never heard of it, but it had a nice Scottish name.

Hubby said the Woodbridge would have been fine. sigh.

Into the Pot
To clear the evening, and since we were both getting home late, I planted the idea of orbeef stewdering pizza in Hubby's brain. Of course he ran with it, so we didn't have to cook dinner.

I generally follow the stew recipe in "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bitten.

I also wanted to bake cookies (I told you I've been all kinds of domestic lately). So I prepped all the veggies, then mixed up the cookie dough (the traditional one off the Nestle bag). The dough went together much quicker than I expected. I only do a half recipe, which gets me about three dozen cookies.

Then I went back to the stew as the cookies baked. There was a tense moment when I couldn't find any bay leaves, but I had some in storage in the basement (gasp!) so I was back on a roll.

The cool thing is that after the meat was browned stew is pretty hands off, which allowed me to lounge around watching the State of the Union speech and knit on Hubby's scarf.

I was also surprised to realize that stew is sort of a one-pot dish. You might have realized from those chicken dishes that I'm a casserole kind of girl.

Well, aside from the cutting board and the bowls I used to hold the chopped veggies, the only pot I got dirty was the great big one. So the kitchen wasn't as destroyed as I was expecting. Even with baking the cookies.

If we cook stew on the weekend we'll have it for dinner that first night, but we really prefer it after it's been in the crockpot for a day. A slick thing I thought of last night was to use the cockpot sleeve to hold the browned meat while it was waiting for the veggies to catch up. I'm so clever.

And despite all that activity, I still got to bed at a decent hour.

Dumplings and Peas to Come
This morning I dropped the crockpot ceramic into the sleeve and put it on low. I also left a note next to it remind us to add peas. We forgot the last time.

When I get home we'll wrangle the Bisquick dumplings together. I don't know why dumplings have to be a team effort, but they do. So simple and yet so complex.

My mom never did dumplings, but that is how Hubby's family does it. The first time I had stew at my in-laws my MIL pulled me aside and pointed out the recipe on the box. I believe she said something along the lines of not straining myself making a more complicated version. ha!

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