The pictures we took of this meal do not do it justice. Incidentally, neither do Jamie Oliver's pictures of the meal on which this recipe is based, "Jools's Favorite Beef Stew" from Jamie's Dinners.
The smells, however, are a whole different story. And the taste -- well, obviously this is an extremely flavorful dish, or I wouldn't bother documenting it here. It's complex and yet comfort-food-esque. It's savory and stick-to-your-ribs-y, but the wonderful lemon-garlic-rosemary mixture that goes on at the end rounds the dish out with a bright, herby finish. (Jamie says the following about how important this mixture is: "Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference - as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance." It's true. It adds something incredibly, indispensably special.) It's got a lot of ingredients, but I think each one of them is crucial to how satisfying this one-pot (several-hour) stew is. If it didn't take several hours to make and if it didn't require so many ingredients (or at least so many ingredients that are not readily and inexpensively available year round in Minneapolis, Minnesota), I might eat this once a week. It's fantastic. So hearty. So rich. And, really, so different. This is not your average stew. This is your valedictorian of stews.
Adapted from Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, coarsely chopped
handful of fresh sage leaves
2 pounds stew meat of your choice, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper
2 sweet potatoes, washed and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 carrots, washed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 a butternut squash, halved, deseeded, and diced into 2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 pound small potatoes (that are about 2-inch in diameter - in case you haven't noticed the trend, this turns out best if all the pieces are about the same in size; or, bigger, firmer potatoes, like Yukon gold, cut into 2-inch pieces)
1/2 cup tomato sauce or 2 tablespoons tomato puree
1/2 bottle of red wine
1 1/4 cups beef or vegetable broth
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put oil and butter into a large (like the largest you have) dutch oven or casserole pan. Add onion and all the sage leaves and fry over high heat on your stove for 3 or 4 minutes. In a bowl, toss the meat with the flour and some salt and pepper. Once well-coated with the flour mixture, add the meat to the pan, and then add all the vegetables, the tomato sauce or puree, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt (this dish is super flavorful, so no need to go crazy with the salt - yes, even yours salt-loving truly found this to be the case!). Bring the mixture to a boil, place a lid on top, then put the pot in the preheated oven. Cook until the meat is tender, about 3 hours or slightly more, depending on what meat you use and how fresh it is. (I used "tenderized round" from my freezer. I thawed it in the refrigerator over night. It took 3 hours.) In Jamie's words, "The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it's ready." Once it's cooked through, you can keep the stew warm by leaving it in the oven, covered, at about 225 degrees.
Just before serving, mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary, and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew. We took Jamie's advice and ate this in big bowls, accompanied by French red wine and my husband's homemade whole wheat baguettes. It was pretty much perfect.