March will make you crazy, if you let it. Here in Maine, like much of the country, we experienced delicious if unusual high temperatures last week. It felt like Spring was upon us. We stripped off our heavy sweaters and hats and gloves and scarves and parkas and boots and wool socks and let our bare white arms thaw in the warmth of the sun. It was a glorious few days, though we knew it couldn’t last. We knew it couldn’t, but we became irrationally hopeful that it would, and we went to Home Depot to gawk at lawn mowers, fancy grills, and tiny packets of vegetable seeds. Alas, it was a false Spring, and things have since returned to normal. Maddening March, a season all its own, at the edge of rebirth, with frequent reminders that winter is never really far off. I’m trying to appreciate the extra daylight and take advantage of this time to enjoy the coziness of indoors for a little while longer. Reading, cooking rich foods, and looking out the picture window at trees about to blossom. Make this stew tonight. Consider it a balm for your confused soul.
Beef Stew with Chipotle, Bleu Cheese and Green Onions
Adapted from a recipe in The Sunset Cookbook; Serves 4
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 lbs beef chuck – 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 strips hardwood smoked bacon, chopped into very small pieces
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into wedges
- 1/8 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
- 1 bottle dry red wine
- 1 lb potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into largish pieces
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
- 1/8 cup green onions, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1. Heat a large and heavy ovenproof pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with vegetable oil and when it’s sizzling hot, carefully place 1/3 of the beef in the pan. Season with salt and black pepper. The pieces should hiss when they hit the oil. Don’t crowd the pan. Brown the meat, about five minutes per side, and remove to a plate; repeat with the rest of the beef, adding more oil as necessary.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon until the fat renders and it begins to brown; remove to a plate. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften, about two minutes; remove them to the plate. Add flour and cook for about two minutes, stir in paprika and chipotle powder. Pour in the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Return beef, bacon, and onions to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and bake until the meat becomes tender, about an hour and a half.
3. Return pot to the stove and add potatoes. Bring to a boil, then add the carrots. Let it simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about thirty minutes. Stir in the butter, bleu cheese and green onions.
Serve in deep bowls with red wine or craft beer. This stew is intense, smoky and reddish-burnt sienna in color. It won’t taste “right” until you stir in the creamy, pungent cheese and bright green onions. Then, it will be perfect!