Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cozy meal for the whole family

We were really lucky to get a nice white Christmas here in Portland, Maine. Just like in a favorite Christmas movie it started snowing right as we were getting out of bed on a Christmas morning and it was snowing all day long. It just felt magical and so perfect! That's why no matter how much I love California, I don't think I could live there, because I'd be missing too much such perfect cozy snowy days. The snow has been on the ground ever since Christmas day, but today we got a beautiful additional white layer. It started snowing as we were having a nice ( and educational) family time in our local library. We looked out of a window and saw huge snowflakes peacefully coming down. It is my favorite kind of snow. Immediately I wanted to go home and make some cozy meal, which is what we did.

One of the coziest meals for me is a beef stew. I know there are a million recipes for beef stew on the Internet, books, etc, but I like to think mine is special and most importantly very kid-friendly. It's special because it has a little secret ingredient (apple cider) and kid-friendly because it's so simple and hmmm...what's the word... clean maybe (?), because it doesn't have many spices and the rich delicious flavor comes from just a few ingredients that go in it; so very easy on little bellies. Another reason why it's a special meaningful meal for us is because a beef stew, funnily enough, is one of the [three] dishes that MJ cooks wonderfully! He was the one who really taught me to cook it. A few years ago when we first moved to Portland and I started working and he was looking for a job at the time, I loved coming home to an amazing smelling apartment. It smelled of the beef stew that MJ had been cooking for hours. Now every time I cook it, it reminds me of that time.

Also it's important to mention that Allie has been a bit sick over the last few days and hasn't been eating well, and this beef stew tonight was the first thing she's eaten so much of over the last few days. She really, really enjoyed it.

Well, let me finally get to the recipe here.

Apple cider beef stew with garlic rye croutons


For the stew:

1 lb beef, cut up in pieces (I get the kind "for stewing" for this dish, it's all cut up and ready to go)
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced. Plus 1 clove for serving.
4-5 potatoes, cut up in bite sized pieces
1 C apple cider
2 C beef broth
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

For garlic rye croutons

Rye or marble rye bread (3-4 slices is enough to serve 3 people)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and left whole
salt to taste
olive oil for drizzling

Start by heating up some olive oil in a Dutch oven. When it's very hot, brown up the seasoned (salt+pepper) meat and then transfer it onto a plate lined with a paper towel to get rid of the grease.

Once the meat is out, add a bit more olive oil to the Dutch oven and add in the celery, onions and carrots. Add some salt and cook for about 10 minutes while you peel and chop the potatoes.

The veggie juices will pick up some of the great "brownness" that the beef created, but to finish off deglazing, use apple cider.

Scrape the bottom and the sides of the pan to pick up all the drippings and then add in the potatoes and cooked meat back into the pan. Now, I know a lot of recipes instruct to add the potatoes a lot later into the cooking process, but I like too add them right here, because then they get sooo soft and tender and just fall apart in your plate and almost create this nice potato-ey sauce. Delicious!

Add in the chopped garlic and some bay leaf.

Pour in the beef broth. I used about 2 Cups, but keep pouring until the veggies and meat are barely covered in liquid. You may need to add a bit more than I used.

Stir everything together to combine, cover up with a lid. 

Bring to boil and then reduce the temperature to low and simmer for 1,5 hrs. In the meantime, make yourself a nice glass of eggnog with some spiced rum and a bit of nutmeg and enjoy it.

When it's done, adjust the seasoning and serve alongside garlic rye croutons.

To make the croutons (so easy!):

Toast in a toaster or under the broiler sliced rye bread and as soon as it's out, rub (liberally) both sides of bread slices with a clove of garlic. Cut it in the pieces of the size that you like, sprinkle with some salt and drizzle with some olive oil.

Just a word of advice, this is one of those dishes that takes forever to cool down and every time we eat it, it tastes so great that we cannot wait to let it cool and keep burning our mouths. Every time! So a reminder for myself and suggestion for you: serve it at least 5 minutes before you sit down to eat. Garnish with some parsley if you like and definitely add just a tiny bit of fresh minced garlic.

 Enjoy on a cool winter night with your loved ones.


  1. What a cool kazan! Is it ceramic? TC

    1. It's actually just an old Dutch oven (cast iron), one of my favorite pieces of equipment in the kitchen!