Tuscan Beef Stew!  

With winter’s winds approaching rapidly, there is something about a slowly simmering, comforting bowl of fork tender beef stew that soothes and nurtures.  And although the depth of flavor in this dish is rich and satisfying, the process couldn’t be easier.  A bit of preparation will leave your kitchen smelling great all afternoon while you relax.  

Stufato di Manzo  (Tuscan Beef Stew)

2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
2 carrots, chopped large
2 celery ribs, chopped large 
1 large parsnip, chopped large 
1 large sweet onion, chopped
5 medium potatoes, chopped large
2 cloves garlic, halved
3 oz. dried porcini, reconstituted
28oz. Beef Stock
2 cups dry red wine
8 ounces tomato passata (puree)
Start by browning the meat.  Take your time and do it well because this will add tremendous depth of flavor to your finished stew. Be sure to pat the meat dry before you start browning and work in batches.  If your meat is wet, it will steam, not brown. 

~ Brown the meat in a little extra virgin olive oil. Season each batch with salt and pepper ~

Note the color on the meat above.  That’s what you’re looking for.  This was the first of three batches that I browned.  Don’t overcrowd the pot.  Remove the meat to a plate as you go.  Then, add the chopped vegetables and saute until softened.

~ These are all the vegetables cooking until soft.  Note the color of the pot!  That’s the crust that formed after browning all 3 batches of meat.  You will deglaze! ~

Once the vegetables are softened, add the 2 cups of red wine – I used a good Chianti – and scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pot.  Scrape until the pot is cleaned and then allow to simmer in order to cook off all the flavor of the alcohol.   Once this is done,  return the meat to the pot and add the beef stock and the tomato passata. 

~ This is the stew right after the step described above.  You should have enough liquid to pretty much cover the entire stew ~
Cover and lower the flame so that you’ve got a slow simmer.  At this point, you’re essentially done except for two final steps.   After the stew has been cooking for about 3 hours, add the porcini mushrooms and their broth and then add the potatoes. Stir in well to combine.

~ This is the stew after it had been cooking for nearly 6 hours ~

When is it done?  Well, you can tell just by looking.  The liquid will reduce, even when the stew is covered. So take your time. You can uncover the pot for the last hour or so if you want to speed up the process.  You’re looking for the sauce to thicken, and for the meat to be falling apart, fork tender. That’s when it’s done.  It’s nearly impossible to overcook this, so I let my last batch go for almost 8 hours.   It was amazing alongside garlic bread to soak up the sauce and a lovely Brunello!  

~ The Chef’s Plate:  Garnish with basil and a drizzle of fine extra virgin oil ~

Tutti a tavola!

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