by Jon Schuller
Last weekend, the winds came.
And with them, all the swirling colors, smells and sentiments of fall. Thanks to Sacramento’s usual Indian Summer weather patterns, autumn has a tendency to sneak up on you. At first, it’s a noticeable chill in the morning air. Then a faint, smoky smell riding on the biting Delta Breezes at night.
Before you know it, the streets are awash in crimson, gold and butternut-colored leaves, the air is crisp, and the sky settles into a familiar shock of cobalt blue.
On days like this, I find myself reaching for some well-crafted comfort food to ease that final transition into the colder part of the year.
Turning to my trusty Epicurious iPhone app, I stumbled upon a great recipe for Irish Beef Stew, originally pulled from a 2001 issue of Bon Appétit.
As usual, I riffed a little on the ingredients (soups are great for that), tossing in chopped celery and a half-tablespoon of rosemary.
And as this was my first time preparing a stew, I can attest to the simplicity of this recipe, as well as the unmatched comfort of curling up on the couch while it simmered on the stovetop, letting the savory aromas fill my apartment.
Irish Beef Stew
Makes 4-6 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 large garlic cloves, minced
8 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons (1/4) stick butter
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces of celery
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beef stock, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion, carrots and celery. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan spoon off fat. Transfer stew to serving bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.
Adapted from an original recipe from Bon Appétit magazine.