Here in Austin, the weather is not very holiday-ish. It’s cold and raining and so gray as to be what I like to call gloomyGus. (That’s how I see it in my head. One word; intercap.)
The bone-chilling damp makes me wish that I would walk in the house and find a warm fire with a bowl of steaming stew on a small table next to a squishy chair… like when poor Jane Eyre finally arrives at Thornfield Hall, and Mrs. Fairfax is kind to her after her long journey.
Give the unlikelihood of that scenario, I’ve been taking matters into my own hands and making dino-chow comfort food. And now I’m going to share with you.
Aren’t you lucky?!
So… forget what you think know about beef stew… the waterlogged carrots and potatoes, the mushy peas, the thick brown gravy.
Now… imagine thyme-scented meat, tender zucchini, and briny black olives in a savory, herb-infused broth. Sounds pretty great, right? It’s both comforting on a cold evening and good enough to serve to company.
When I was in college, I subscribed to one of those housewife-y, mail-order cooking school things. Every month, McCall’s Cooking School would send me recipe pages I could buy for, like, $9.95 to put into the big-ass binder they gave me for free.
The binder is long gone, but I kept one recipe when I moved out of my college apartment: Beef Stew Provençal. The page has been photocopied several times, and it’s stained with drops of red wine from previous batches of stew. I found the wrinkled page again last weekend when I sorted through my cookbook shelf, and I realized that with a little love, Beef Stew Provençal would make an excellent dino-chow recipe. It also freezes well, so make a double batch and sock it away for the next rainy day.
My version of Beef Stew Provençal appears in Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat — and also below, because I like you.
Serves 4-6 | Marinate 2-3 hours | Cook 3 hours
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
2 medium oranges
2 pounds boneless beef chuck
2 teaspoons ghee
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 bay leaves
1 (14.5 ounce) can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1-inch thick rounds
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds 1 (6 ounce) can large black pitted olives
minced fresh parsley leaves, extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a medium bowl, mix the vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Use your fingers to crush the dried thyme into the bowl. With a peeler or sharp knife, carefully cut the peel from an orange to make two strips that are 1 inch wide by 3 inches long. Add the peel to the bowl, then squeeze the juice from the oranges to make about 1/3 cup; add to the bowl. Stir with a fork to combine.
2. Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes. Add the beef to the marinade and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or up to overnight. Remove the meat from the marinade and keep the marinade; you’ll add it to the stew later. Pat the meat dry with paper towels, then sprinkle with plenty of salt and ground black pepper.
3. Heat a large, deep pot over medium-high heat, then add the ghee. When the ghee is melted, add the beef cubes to the pan in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan. (Everyone appreciates a little wiggle room when the heat is on.) Brown the beef on all sides in batches; remove the beef to a bowl as it browns.
4. When the meat is browned, add the onions and garlic to the drippings (add a little more ghee, if necessary) and cook until soft and golden, about 7 to 10 minutes. Return the beef to the pot and add the bay leaves, tomatoes, broth, and reserved marinade. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 90 minutes.
5. Place the zucchini, carrots, and olives on top of the meat in the pot, then cook an additional 20 minutes, covered, until the beef and vegetables are tender. Serve topped with minced parsley and a gentle drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
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