A summer beef stew

This weekend, we got a much needed reprieve from the hot, dry summer. Sunday brought a cool, humid rain, and for my family, an excuse to stay indoors and be lazy. Somehow this shift inside immediately awakened my desire to be in the kitchen, fussing over dinner. With some good music playing and a gray drizzle outside, I felt inspired to create a summer beef stew, using some of the stew beef from our most recent share. I wanted something savory and rich to balance the damp weather, but also something that would embody the vibrance and lively color of summer. This did the trick.

When I think about summer food, beef stew isn’t usually what comes to mind. But with lively tender crisp vegetables paired against the slowly braised beef, it works. Almost any summer vegetables can be used here, so get creative and make substitutions as desired.

Summer Beef Stew

3 strips of Brookford bacon

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 lb Brookford stewing beef

28 ounces canned tomatoes

2 cups dry red wine

1 TBSP anchovy paste

1 bay leaf

1 TBSP herbs de Provence

2 cups water or stock

1 cup chopped green beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 zucchini, chopped into small bite size pieces

1 summer squash, chopped into small bite size pieces

2 carrots, sliced into ¼ inch rounds

3 small onions, sliced thinly

¼ cup sherry vinegar

Fresh herbs for garnish

Flaky sea salt

Set a large dutch oven on an unheated stove. Lay the bacon strips in the dutch oven and turn the heat to medium high. Cook, flipping once, until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside to cool. Season the stewing beef well with salt and pepper, rubbing it in with your hands. Leaving the bacon fat in the pan, (add a glug of olive oil if the pan looks like it needs a little extra), add the stew beef to the hot fat. Sear, undisturbed, until well browned and a crust has developed, about five minutes. Carefully turn the beef and repeat until seared on all sides. (If your pan isn’t large, you will need to sear the beef in batches to maintain enough heat to get a good crust). Once all the beef is well crusted, add half the wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom. Finely chop the reserved bacon, and add half of it to the pan (reserve the other half) along with the anchovy paste, and stir frequently as the mixture cooks down. Once the liquid has thickened, (this will take about five minutes over medium high heat), add the rest of the wine, the bay leaf, the herbs de Provence, and the canned tomatoes. Stir well and cook over medium high heat for five more minutes, while preheating the oven to 250 degrees. At this point, you may want to add additional liquid (either water or stock), depending on how much is left in the pan. You want enough liquid to allow the beef to braise once in the oven, but not so much that the mixture turns soupy. Give it a stir, cover with a heavy lid, and put the entire pan in the oven. Allow the beef to braise for 4-6 hours, stirring every 45 minutes or so, and adding more liquid as needed to maintain a stew-like quality. During the last hour of braising the meat, heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onions, and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about two minutes. Add the remaining vegetables, season well with salt, and saute until tender crisp, making sure to remove from the heat before they lose their bright color.

Remove the dutch oven from the oven and place it on the stove top. Remove the lid, stir it well, and add the sauteed vegetables and sherry vinegar to the pan, mixing carefully to incorporate everything. Taste for salt and pepper and season as needed.  Serve on its own, or over soft polenta or cooked rice. Garnish with a sprinkle of the reserved crumbled bacon, a few glugs of olive oil, a pinch of flaky sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a sprinkling of chives or other fresh herbs.