I don't think I can properly describe what it's like to come home after sitting for hours in a freezing cold ice rink to a bowl of this wonderful stew! Descriptive phrases, exclamation points, happy face emoticons--they just don't cut it--you've got to try it for yourself and see.
I've made a lot of stews in my day, but never using brisket, so when I came across this recipe during the summer, my interest was piqued and I immediately squirreled it away, waiting for the weather to turn cool enough to test this out. Well, last week, here in the East, we had some pretty nippy days and I deemed the time had come. This is not a start-it-at-4:00 p.m.-on-a weeknight-and-expect-to-eat-it-at-6:00 p.m.-kind-of-a-stew. Brisket is a rather tough cut of meat so it needs to cook for several hours, but if you throw this together in the early part of the day, or even better yet, over the weekend, you'll be rewarded with amazingly tender brisket and veggies in a rich flavorful sauce. In fact, as with most stews, it gets better after hanging out in the fridge for a couple of days, so if you can, plan ahead.
What we also really loved about this stew is the variety of veggies you use: onions, garlic, tomatoes (I know they're a fruit, but c'mon) parsnips, carrots, turnips and peas. And I'm sure you could sub in or omit others that you like, which makes this a versatile dish too! Serve this with some rice or boiled potatoes and you've got an entirely complete meal in a bowl! Almost makes you appreciate and even long for (yes, I said it) the cold weather!! Yikes!!
Autumn Brisket Stew
Makes 4 generous servings--double this for a larger crowd
Prep Time: 30 minutes; Cook Time: About 3 hours
1 tablespoon olive oil
About 2 1/4 pounds lean beef brisket, cut into bite-sized cubes
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 cups chicken or beef stock
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
5-6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2-3 purple-topped turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1. In a large heavy stockpot, heat the oil until very hot over medium-high heat. Meanwhile sprinkle the cubes of beef with some salt and pepper. Using tongs, add half the beef to the pot and let it brown on all sides, turning as needed, for about 6-7 minutes. Remove from the pot and transfer to a bowl. Repeat with rest of beef.
2. To the same pot add the onions, garlic, and thyme and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the wine and tomatoes, and stir to scrape up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Simmer for about 8 minutes or until the wine has reduced by half. Place the meat back into the pot, pour in the stock and bring it back to a slow simmer (the beef should barely be covered by the liquid). Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and let it cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every now and then.
3. Add the parnsips, carrots and turnips and cover the pot again. Let simmer gently for about 1 hour. Then add the peas and simmer for 5 more minutes, until the vegetables are fork-tender and the beef is falling apart and easily cut with a spoon.
4. Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the beef and vegetables to a large bowl. Boil the liquid left in the pot over high heat for about 20 minutes, or until it's reduced by half, to thicken the sauce slightly. Return the beef and vegetables to the pot and simmer for few more minutes or until everything is hot again.
5. Serve immediately or let come to room temperature and chill overnight in the refrigerator--it's delicious the day it's made but the flavor does improve with a day of sitting around. Also, the recipe doubles well--just make sure to use a very large pot.
Note: Recipe adapted from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone. I left out the fresh rosemary and thyme, and opted for a small amount of dried thyme instead. Also I increased the amount of carrots and turnips.