(Vicki James) Few things are more comforting to the soul on a cold evening than a delicious steaming bowl of beef stew. Especially when it's packed with an assertive mix of fruits, olives, mushrooms and wine. As the poet John Keats wrote, “ O, for a beaker full of the warm south!” He was talking about wine as he shivered away in the cold damp climate of England. Maybe he was even talking about wine similar to the one I used in this wonderful stew. This stew tastes like a bowl of the warm shores of southern Spain and I guarantee its like nothing you have ever had before.
1 pound of lean beef cut into one inch cubes
1 tablespoon of cooking oil
1 cup of dry red wine ( I used a Spanish Rioja)
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes ( I used Muir Glen fire-roasted)
1 large onion sliced ¼ inch thick
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1/3 cup raisins
¼ cup dried apricots, halved
1 clove minced garlic
1 and ½ teaspoons salt
1/8 tsp. Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 bay leaf
¾ cup sliced fresh mushrooms
¼ cup sliced olives (black or green)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup cold water
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large frying pan. Let it get very hot, because you want to get a great sear on your meat. Always blot your meat with paper towels before you put it in the pan. Add the meat cubes and brown on all sides. Add the wine, tomatoes, onion, green pepper strips, raisins, apricots, garlic, herbs, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, for one hour. Add the mushrooms and olives and simmer for 30 minutes more. Combine the flour and cold water and stir constantly till the stew thickens and bubbles. At this point you may want to raise the temperature to bring the stew to a boil, but be careful not to allow the bottom to burn. Once the stew has thickened, serve it over egg noodles or rice.
Notes: When cooking with wine, please choose one that is drinkable. We used a nice Spanish Rioja for this recipe. If you would not care to drink a wine, you are not going to like it in your food, either. The original recipe calls for “ripe olives”, but I had green olives on hand, so that is what I used. The best rule of thumb is to use olives you would like to eat and please don't use canned sliced black olives. They just don't have enough flavor. !When you taste this yummy concoction, you will be blown away. All of the flavors meld beautifully, and the whole is clearly more than the sum of its parts. Serve it proudly to guests and let them guess what's in it. It's subtly sweet, but also winey and briny. See if you don't think it's a keeper!