Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Beef Stew with Almonds & Olives

I had this recipe in my to-try file, and since we're still on the low-carb kick, this looked like it would fit the bill. One thing that drew me to the recipe was the odd procedure of starting out with the onions, garlic, meat and some water together in the pot and basically cooking it until the liquid is evaporated and has formed a nice brown layer on the bottom of the pot. An inexpensive dry sherry is fine -- I used what I had on hand; a bottle of screw-top Gallo brand -- and the addition of the spices along with the blanched almonds and olives gives this stew a distinctly Middle Eastern or Southern French flavor. This will definitely be made again, especially since it can be made a day ahead and reheated; the flavor only improves. We had it with green beans, but for more normal eating times, I would have made rice or simple boiled new potatoes to sop up the yummy sauce. The serving yield is for 6, but not in our world. This makes just enough for 4 servings, so next time I'll double it and freeze half.

Beef Stew with Almonds and Olives

(Adapted from Sunset magazine, October 1998)

2 pounds fat-trimmed boned beef chuck
1 onion (8 oz.), peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon bacon fat, if available
2 cups fat-skimmed low-sodium beef broth
2/3 cup dry sherry, divided
1/3 cup blanched almonds**
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Cut beef into 1-inch cubes. Place meat, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and 1/3 cup water in a 5- to 6-quart pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to medium, and boil 20 minutes. Uncover and boil over high heat, stirring often, until juices evaporate and a dark brown film forms in pan, 10 to 15 minutes. Add bacon fat.
2. Add broth, 1/3 cup sherry, and almonds, thyme and cinnamon; stir to release brown film from pan. Return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Add olives. Cover and simmer until beef is tender when pierced, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
3. If more than 1 cup liquid is in pan, boil, uncovered, over high heat until reduced to 1 cup. Mix 1/3 cup sherry with cornstarch. Add to pan; stir until boiling.
Allow to cool, cover and chill overnight.

Reheat. Pour into a bowl; sprinkle with parsley.

Yield: Makes about 6 servings

** to blanch the almonds: bring water to boil in small saucepan. Drop in the almonds. Boil for about a minute. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Peel off the skins.

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