Monday, October 15, 2012

Cooking with Colwin

I've decided, in the increased free time that I have this year, to begin cooking my way through Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, and taking pictures along the way. The point is A) to get myself back in the kitchen (although I don't have many people to cook for here, which is a serious disadvantage) and B) to more thoroughly read Laurie Colwin--sharing someone's recipes and cooking tips makes you feel like old friends. 

The first recipe is Extremely Easy Old-Fashioned Beef Stew. Colwin calls it "a savory, never-fail straightforward beef stew." Now in my opinion it was quite good, but it was also quite dry: it needs a lot more sauce. Perhaps it's my fault--I may have picked up the Leopard woman curse from my mother and just be unable to ever make a soup with an actual broth. Mama Leopard's soups come out as stews (this is not a complaint! just an observation.), so maybe stew just comes out as meat and potatoes.

First, you shake a cup of white flour in a paper bag with two tablespoons of paprika and three or four twists of the pepper grinder. Then you add two and a half pounds of stewing beef, cut into one inch chunks. Shake it up and make sure they're all covered with flour. Then fry the meat in 1/4 cup of olive oil until the flour begins to turn color.

I skimped on the beef, because it was sold in 1 and a 1/2 pound packages.

Laurie Colwin admonishes her readers to look for organic chickens and eggs. She writes, "As far as meat is concerned, if you have a source for organic beef or veal, go for it. Not only is it tastier (and frequently leaner), but you also do not have to worry about feeding anabolic steroids to friends and loved ones." What wisdom! The problem is, I'm still suffering from the financial restrictions of 7 years as a graduate student, hovering around the poverty line (I have no idea if that's true or not). Maybe in five years or so, I will be able to justify buying organic food, but just now, the plain old stuff will do.

So I literally asked the butcher in the grocery store down the road, pointing to some organic chunks of stewing beef, "Do you have anything like that, but not organic?" He did, in the back, and brought it out for me. It was half of the price of the organic stuff.

You add half of the meat to a casserole dish and then sprinkle with two cloves of garlic, chopped. And then a chopped carrot (Colwin recommends scraped, but I'm all for efficiency and I've never found carrot skin to hurt anyone. Who knows, it may even be healthy! Of course, it also might be covered with pesticides; I have no idea!).

And then a quartered onion and a chopped potato.

And then repeat.

I'm not sure that I was convinced that this had to be done in two layers, but let's just humor Laurie.

For the sauce on top: 1 cup of red wine, 4 ounces of tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Cook them down in a sauce pan, stirring constantly, for about four minutes. (I might double this in the future or water it down or something.) Pour it on top of the meat and vegetables. Cook the casserole at 300 degrees for at least three hours. Cook for the last 15 minutes with the cover off.

(The wine in the picture above isn't for the sauce, it's for the cook. We don't have any wine glasses, so a beer glass has to do.)

Colwin recommends serving the beef stew with noodles with olive oil and a small salad. Francisco excused me from making a salad (he's a boy, and still not crazy about vegetables), so I just chopped up a green pepper.

And we opened the fanciest bottle of wine I've ever owned (it was a gift, and I've been saving it for years and years), and enjoyed some home cooking.


Francisco said...

I love vegetables! Stop the gendering!

The stew was very good.

Frankincense said...

Looks tasty!

I really enjoyed reading the Colwin book you gave me. The one funny thing, to me, was that she recommends putting celery salt on EVERYTHING. Never in my life have I used celery salt. I don't know if I even knew it existed before reading the book!

Emily Hale said...

I'm so glad that you liked it. You're totally right--what is celery salt, anyway??

Sadly, she was known for loving salt and it was probably bad for her health.

Diana said...

These photos are great!! You're lucky that you have good lighting wherever you're cooking; the lighting in my kitchen is appalling.

Emily Hale said...

Ha--I really do only cook for the blog during the day. It just isn't the same under the artificial light.

I forgot how to do macro, though--which is a problem with food photography! Must read the instructions (never my strong suit).