Every fall I dream about comfort foods like roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and beef stew. And every February I’m ready for something…well…different. Don’t get me wrong – I love my roast chicken and beef stew. I just like to mix things up a bit, so I hit my cookbooks in search of something new. This year the something “new” came in the form of a classic recipe from Sarah Leah Chase’s “Cold Weather Cooking”. It is Stifado, a greek meat and onion stew that is heady and rich and satisfying. It’s like no beef stew I’ve ever tasted before (in a really good way).
This stew is a terrific combination of many of the flavors I associate with middle eastern food. Cinnamon, cloves, cumin, orange zest, and bay leaves combine with red wine, vinegar, and tomato paste to make a fantastically rich sauce, which coats the beef and onions beautifully. Most of the work is done up front when searing the cubes of beef, and then you get to sit back and relax while the stew simmers away on the stove top. And like most stews, while this tastes great the day you cook it, it tastes even better one or two days later.
This recipe is made with beef, but it could just as easily be made with lamb.
1/4 cup olive oil
3 pounds lean beef, in 1-1/2 inch cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 6 ounce can of tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup raisins
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb. package of frozen pearl onions, defrosted
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Generously season the cubes of beef with salt and pepper, then sear in batches until browned on all sides. Remove from the pot and set aside.
2. Saute the onion in the pot until softened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds more.
3. Add the wine, vinegar, brown sugar, and tomato paste and stir until fully incorporated, then add the cumin, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks.
4. Return the beef to the stew pot, along with the raisins and the orange zest.
5. Stir to combine, then bring the stew to a simmer. Cover and let cook over medium-low heat for one hour.
6. After the stew has simmered away for one hour, add the defrosted pearl onions and simmer, covered, for one hour more.
7. Serve the stew over egg noodles or potato dumplings, with the feta and pine nuts sprinkled on top.