Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Best Ever Beef Stew

I'm a big fan of Chef Michael Smith's way of cooking, he gives the basics and encourages you to put your own twist on it. “The best recipe is no recipe at all”. He is a big supporter of local food producers, famers, and fishermen. Emrace everything local, seasonal and that will get you your best flavours.

In my Food Network and online recipe addiction, my best and most frequent successes have been from his shows and websites.
We use our slow cooker quite a bit for Sunday dinners, mostly pot roasts and beef stew. Once I found this recipe of Chef Michael's biscuit crusted beef stew, I never looked back. This isn't made in a slow cooker but in our Paderno casserole dish so it goes from stove top to oven easily.

I have halved his recipe, this usually gives enough for two meals for the two of us. I've made a few ingredient adjustments to our tastes and availablility, you can do the same. Rather than putting the stew in individual serving bowls, I cover the stew with a large circle of the biscuit dough in the casserole dish and put the one pot in the oven. You can find the original recipe here Chef Michael Smith's Biscuit Covered Stew.
For the biscuit topping I use his frozen butter biscuit recipe, about the lightest, fluffiest, flakiest recipe I've ever found. The secret is in the grated frozen butter. The original recipe is here, I half it to top the stew. Chef Michael Smith's Frozen Butter Biscuits
This is a hearty stew for a cold winter evening.

Biscuit Crusted Beef Stew
  • 1 pound cubed stew beef 
  • Salt and Pepper to season
  • A splash vegetable oil
  • 2 peeled and roughly chopped carrots
  • 1 peeled and roughly chopped potato
  • 1 peeled and roughly chopped parsnips
  • 1 peeled and roughly chopped onions
  • 1/4 peeled and roughly chopped turnip
  • A few button mushrooms
  • ½ small can tomato paste
  • ¼ bottle red wine (remember, if you wouldn't drink it, don't use it in your cooking)
  • 1 or 2 cups homemade beef or canned stock
  • A couple bay leaves
  • A few springs of fresh rosemary

  1. Preheat a large thick-bottomed pot that can go in the oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Add enough oil to the pot to cover the bottom in a thin layer.
  3. Sear the meat, one layer at a time, on every side until it’s evenly browned.
  4. Once all the meat is browned, drain excess oil – but keep the tasty browned bits in the pan. 
  5. Add half of the vegetables, except mushrooms.
  6. Add all the meat back to the pot.
  7. Add the tomato paste and enough wine and beef stock to just barely cover the works.
  8. Add the bay leaves and rosemary and bring the pot to a simmer.
  9. Continue cooking about an hour, then add the remaining vegetables and mushrooms.
  10. Continue simmering until the meat and veggies are tender, about another thirty minutes.
  11. Meanwhile make a batch of biscuits.
  12. Roll the dough into a circle large enough to cover the stew in the in the pot then score into 8 pie pieces.
  13. When the vegetables are tender season and then careffully it the circle of biscuit dough onto the stew in the pot. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven.
  14. Cook until the biscuit topping is nicely browned and the stew is heated through, about thirty minutes.
  15. When done, carefully remove the circle of biscuit dough, it's going to be hot, and cut into individual servings.
  16. Ladle stew into bowl & serve with a biscuit.

Frozen Butter Biscuits

  • 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 tablespoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoons salt 
  • 1/2 cup frozen butter 
  • ¾ cup milk 

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together until they’re evenly mixed.
  2. Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Shred it through the large holes of a box grater or potato grater directly into the flour.
  3. Toss gently with your fingers until the butter shards are spread evenly throughout the flour. 
  4. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and stir with the handle of a wooden spoon to form a dough mass. The handle of the spoon is gentler on the dough.
  5. Fold the dough over a few times with your hands until all the ingredients come together.
  6. If necessary add a few spoonfuls more milk to help gather up any stray flour.
  7. This kneading will strengthen the dough a bit but not enough to toughen the biscuits. It will also help them form a crisp crust when they bake. 
  8. Pat the dough out on a lightly floured cutting board forming a loose round shape.

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