beef: it’s what’s for dinner

There’s a charming little butcher shop nearby where we purchase a significant portion of our protein. They’ve got everything from ribs to sirloin and ribeye to liver and sausage. One-stop shopping for the protein fanatic, if you will.

They even made us custom bockwurst sausage when my favorite German delicacy seemed to disappear from every other venue in the area.

If you’re in the Seattle area, be sure to check out Bill the Butcher.

Each of their tasty, tantalizing goodies is carefully wrapped in white paper upon purchase. Now this seems completely normal, but the problem is that the packages all start to look the same when, like our family, you buy multiple things in one stop. And none of us have been smart enough to bring a pen for labeling, or ask the cheery butchers that work there to label our packages, which I’m sure they would at the drop of a hat.

This brings a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘mystery meat’.

We’ll often pull something out of the freezer to thaw, thinking it’s one thing and discovering later, around dinnertime,  that it is indeed something totally different.

At least our creativity is constantly put to the test.

The other night, for example, we thought we were having flank steak for dinner. As it turned out, we managed to have thawed a hunk of chuck roast, which requires preparation that is distinctly different from that used for flank steak.

Goodbye, chili-rubbed, grilled flank steak fajita salad, hello warm, garlic and tomato infused French stew. I whipped open the Joy of Cooking and began frantically searching for SOMETHING to do with a chuck roast. While I was praying for some light, summery dish to emerge from the yellowed pages, nothing but stews and broiled meats appeared in the ‘roasts’ section.

Don’t worry, you’re still getting a flank steak recipe out of me too (stay tuned).

But in case you end up with a roast, here’s what to do. It’s really easy; there were about 20 minutes of actual work involved. If you’ve got a crock pot, this would be the moment to break it out, but a Dutch oven would work beautifully too. I used our shiny red one for this stew.

Stew Gaston (heavily adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

4 slices cured coppa, cut into strips (any bacon-type meat will do)

1.5 lbs of chuck roast

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp salt

1 yellow onion

3 medium cloves of garlic

1 can diced tomatoes

1.5-2 cups broth (this will depend of the shape of your pan)

¼ cup chopped parsley

½ tsp clove

1 bay leaf

3 medium carrots, peeled

3-4 baby artichokes

Throw the coppa in the dutch oven on medium heat and let it render. While the coppa is going, cut up your chuck into ¾” cubes (or thereabouts…you don’t have to be too picky on this one) and roll the pieces in a mixture of the garlic powder, thyme, and salt. Pull the rendered coppa out of the pot and put aside on a paper towel to drain. Try not to eat all of it; you’ll need it later.

Put the meat into the pan and turn the pieces occasionally, browning them on all sides. Meanwhile, dice the onion and when most of the meat is brown, add the onion to the pot. Then add the diced tomato and about ½ cup of broth.

Chop up the garlic and parsley and add them to the pot, followed by the bay leaf and clove. Stir. Then add the rendered coppa pieces and enough broth to cover the meat. Put the lid on and simmer everything on low for about 2 hours.

When the two hours is up, chop the carrot into rounds and add the pieces to the pot, followed by the small artichokes, which you can cut in half to speed up the cooking process if you’d like. Add more broth and salt if you feel the need, cover everything and continue to simmer until the artichokes are done and the meat is very tender, about another hour.

Serve and enjoy. Be careful not to eat the bay leaf!

Although this dish is a bit wintery, it was perfect for one of our 60 degree, cloudy Seattle summer days.

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