Cozy Day Comfort Food
I have been feeling a little lost and blue for the past week. Our daughter has left the nest again after living at home for the summer. I had grown fond of her company when she was not working to earn some cash for her next year of education. I realize it is time for her to leave home and test her wings out, but as a mother it is heart wrenching to see my baby fly away. So I decided to cook up some autumn comfort food to chase away the blues.
As I gather my ingredients to create a heart warming beef stew with dumplings, I glance out the window only to see snowflakes falling steadily from the sky. I guess I picked the perfect day to cook up a stew.
I light some candles and let the cozy warm atmosphere inspire me in my cooking. The beauty of a stew is that it is so versatile; you can add any type of root vegetable that you prefer. As long as you braise the meat well to achieve that incredible depth of rich flavor and have good stock to slowly stew the meat and vegetables, the results will be delicious. Some people prefer their stew without dumplings and just mop up the rich gravy with a slice of bread, but stew is not stew to me without those tender fluffy morsels on top.
The smell of the stew cooking in the kitchen on this cold fall day is like wrapping myself in my favorite cuddly sweater --very comforting. I hope you pick a day such as this one and stew yourself up a comforting meal with or without dumplings.
Autumn Beef Stew with Parmesan Herb Dumplings
2 oz. thick cut bacon or pancetta
3 Ib. beef stew meat cut into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil as needed
1 medium white onion coarsely chopped
3 stalks celery coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tbsp. minced fresh sage
1 tsp. cumin
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef broth
2 medium carrots peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 beets peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 large potatoes peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ cup chopped parsley
Parmesan Herb Dumplings
2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. minced fresh thyme
¼ cup chopped parsley
¾ cup shredded Parmesan
¾ cup milk
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water. (egg wash)
Pre-heat oven to 325°F
Place the bacon or pancetta in a large heavy oven safe Dutch oven and cook over medium high heat until brown and crisp. Remove the bacon from the Dutch oven and set aside. Season half of the beef with salt and pepper, brown the beef in the bacon fat until all sides are brown usually about 10 minutes. Remove beef pieces from the Dutch oven and repeat with the remaining beef pieces, seasoning with salt and pepper before browning. Then remove the rest of the beef pieces. Then remove the Dutch oven from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
Pour all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the Dutch oven. Add the onion, celery, and garlic to the Dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, sage and cumin cook until fragrant about 2 minutes.
Return the bacon or pancetta to the Dutch oven.
Add the wine, stirring to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Heat over medium- high heat and boil to reduce by half, 5 minutes.
Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Return the beef to the Dutch oven as well as any accumulated juices. Lower heat to maintain a simmer.
Place a 12 by 16 inch piece of parchment paper directly on the surface of the stew allowing ends to come up the sides of the Dutch oven. Cover with the lid and place in the oven to stew 1 hour.
After the 1-hour of stewing, add the carrots, potatoes and beets to the Dutch oven, cover with the parchment paper and the lid then return to the oven. Cover with the parchment paper and the lid, and continue to stew in the oven until beef is fork tender about another half an hour.
Stir in the vinegar, mustard and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the dumplings, place the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour until well combined. Stir in the parsley, thyme and ½ cup of Parmesan cheese. Add the milk and stir gently until the mixture holds together.
Divide the mixture into 18 portions and roll into a ball.
Remove the stew from the oven and re-set the oven to 425°F.
Place the dumplings on top of the stew. Brush the tops of the dumplings with egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until dumplings are golden.