I regret to inform you that Ina's Parker's Beef Stew was probably not worth the 3.5 hours it took to prepare it yesterday. It wasn't bad. It just probably wasn't worth 3.5 hours.
There's lots of chopping and mincing and dredging and browning, and two hours of in-the-oven time.
(Plus, you have to marinate the meat the night before, which is not hard at all, but don't forget to build in that extra time.)
I am horrid at remembering to read recipes through before I start. I get bored reading recipes recreationally, but I enjoy them as directions when I am actually assembling the item, just like with Ikea furniture.
So I marinated the beef last night, but then when I did glance through the recipe this morning and got to "Dutch oven," I remembered, "Hey, I don't own a Dutch oven". (How many times have I done this? You may recall my annual Christmastime "Hey, I don't own a Bundt pan" theme.)
So! I called my mom (yay, mom!), who told me I could use my four-quart stainless stock pot. I was surprised to learn stainless can go in the oven. Yes, it all can, she said, as long as the handles can go in the oven. And even then, some handles can be covered in foil and will do fine. Who knew? Probably everybody but me.
There it is on the stove, after we ate, waiting for me to put the leftovers away and to clean it.
I wish I'd called mom first, because this afternoon I went to TJ Maxx looking for a Dutch oven. They were between $40 (for a small one) and $85 (for a big one), all enameled cast-iron, and I thought, maybe they're cheaper elsewhere.
But then I left and went to Whole Foods. Which made no sense at all, because I knew the Dutch ovens at Whole Foods would cost more, but I went anyway, because the TJ Maxx Dutch ovens were reddish-orange, and I wanted turquoise or spring green. (This is why I'm not really a good cook. Excessive attention to appearance and not enough attention to function.)
Anyhoo, the Le Creuset Dutch ovens at Whole Foods ranged between $185 and $200-something and so I left, feeling faint at the cost of Dutch ovens.
BUT! It was not a complete waste because I got a loaf of really good bread to go with the stew that was not yet cooked and maybe would never be.
The moral of this story is, call people before driving all over town. That's the moral. The other moral is, read the recipe through, even if it is boring. The third moral is, Dutch ovens cost more at Whole Foods than TJ Maxx.
What else can I tell you about this stew? Well, Ina calls for an entire 750 ml. bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to be poured over 2.5 pounds of meat as a marinade.
This made no sense to me, because the meat was completely covered in wine with less than a bottle. And that left some to drink with the stew. :)
Why in the universe would I decide to second-guess Ina? But I did. I used just enough wine to cover the meat. But then, later, when I was cooking the stew and got to the part where she says "add two-and-a-half cups of the leftover marinade to the pan and discard the rest," well, if you have skimped on the marinade, you won't have enough.
I had just almost enough, with nothing to discard.
The other thing I should mention is that you should brown the meat and veggies in a stick (rather than nonstick) saute pan. I also don't own one of those. I just own a nonstick skillet. You really can't deglaze a nonstick pan.
The other thing I should mention is, too peppery! It calls for too much pepper. Cut way back.
My sister cooked the online version, which calls for mushrooms but no bacon. It sounds like she fared better. Christy, do you have any tips? Do you think you'll make it again? I'm going to make the online version next time, and see how that goes. I notice the online version has you saute all the veggies together, which makes more sense than the book version.
I gave Hugo the carrot ends, and he ate them and then wiped out. He keeps me (quiet) company in the kitchen every night when I make dinner. I shut the door and we're in there together in companionable silence. I love it.
So eventually, at 7:30 (which is Claire's bedtime), we ate. I wasn't exactly disappointed, I just thought it would taste more like superhero stew or something, since it took so long.
Although, Ina does say that she makes it ahead to reheat, because it's better reheated. I'll try it for lunch and report back to you. :)