Few foods are as deeply satisfying as a bowl of old-school beef stew. But even the cooks of yesterday took shortcuts, so it's always your choice how much flavour you'd like to craft into your stew. These familiar flavours are a flexible base for your choice of cooking speeds.
2 lb. of stewing beef, cut into 1" cubes, dried well on paper towels
2 tbsp or so of vegetable oil
2 cups of your favourite red wine or water
1 can (5-1/2 oz.) of tomato paste
2 onions, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
2 potatoes, cubed
1 turnip, cubed
2 or 3 bay leaves
Leaves from 1 bunch of rosemary, chopped
1 tsp of salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen corn
Fast (30 minutes): Pile everything into a large pot as fast as you can. Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Cook 10 minutes. Chew and chew. Clean.
Slow (60 minutes): Begin by taking the time to slowly and patiently brown the meat in your favourite large, heavy pot. Use high heat and lots of oil, and brown just one layer of meat at a time. This is your only shot at adding the rich, deep flavours that can only come from respectfully browned meat. Put all the meat and any juices back in the pot and add everything else except the peas and corn. Bring to a full boil, stirring frequently, then adjust the heat much lower, just enough to maintain a slow, steady simmer. Tightly cover and patiently wait as the ingredients tenderize, about 30 minutes. Dinner is done. (For even more tenderness, though, let everything enjoy 60 full minutes of slow simmering.) Then stir in the peas and corn, allowing a few minutes for them to heat through. Ladle into bowls, serve, and share.
Pressure Cooker Speedy (45 minutes): Begin by taking the time to slowly and patiently brown the meat. Add all the remaining ingredients except the peas and corn. Bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Fit the lid onto the pot, forming a tight seal. Cook, allowing the intense internal pressure to dramatically speed up tenderness, about 20 minutes. After a few minutes your pressure cooker will begin to ominously hiss and steam — this is normal. After 20 minutes turn off the heat and wait 5 minutes, allowing the pressure to begin to dissipate. Before removing the lid, depress the pressure-relief valve until the steam fully subsides. Remove the all day lid. Stir in the peas and corn, ladle into bowls, serve, and share.
Slow Cooker Slow (6-8 hours): Fill your slow cooker with all the ingredients except the peas and corn. Stir well to combine all the rich flavours. Set a long, slow speed and walk away confidently. Come back when you're hungry, in 6 or 8 hours or so. Stir in the peas and corn, then ladle into bowls, serve, and share a bowlful of soulful flavour.
See more recipes from Michael Smith.
Reprinted with permission from Michael Smith's Fast Flavours (2012 Penguin Canada).