Have I been complaining about winter too much?
I apologize. In late January, I start to feel… OVER IT. Don’t get me wrong- I can’t imagine the holidays without snow anymore, and I can appreciate how beautiful a fluffy white coat looks on our pine trees. I think this time of year, my mini-gloom has something to do with the sad realization that spring is not only NOT right around the corner…it’s literally MONTHS AWAY.
This morning, as snowflakes continue to fall outside my window, I remembered something. In summer, I was looking forward to the first chill in the air. I was excited for sweater season, for a reason to buy cute knee-high boots. I couldn’t wait to explore my new-ish neighborhood and surrounding trails in snowshoes. I was ready to spend hours in my kitchen, with new recipes for soups and casseroles and hearty winter cooking. And I’m in the thick of all of that now, yet wistfully looking ahead to the days of flip flops and wildflowers. It must mean something that I have a hard time being present and joyful in the moment. I need to work on that.
Last night is a perfect example of the cozy winter evenings I was dreaming about sometime last July. Some time on the couch in front of the fire with some magazines led me to the ideal cold-weather meal: Beef and Wild Mushroom Stew. YUM!
A quick glance at the ingredients revealed that I’d be using dried mushrooms and parsnips, neither of which I’d cooked with before. A culinary adventure! I was surprised at how easy it was to find a variety of dried mushrooms at my local grocery store. I was also surprised at how difficult it was to find parsnips- John went to three stores before bringing home a couple of these pale carrot look-alikes!
First, I had to reconstitute the dried mushrooms with boiling water. THAT was easy.
Next, I spent a little time with the stew meat. My butcher provides meat just for stews, already cut into bite-sized pieces. How convenient! In batches, using incredibly long tongs, I browned up the little chunks in my favorite green soup pot.
While the meat was doing its thing, I chopped carrot, the parsnips, an onion, and some garlic. (As usual, I used more garlic than the recipe called for. Such a rebel.)
The browned meat came out of the pot for awhile and the veggies went IN. I added some fresh thyme, just because I thought it sounded yummy. I scooped in some tomato paste, gave it all a stir, and let it cook for a handful of minutes.
The kitchen was smelling delicious right about now. On cue, John came wandering in to check things out. He supervised as the meat went back into the pot, followed by beef broth and some Marsala wine.
(Note to self: Do not try to sip Marsala wine ever again. It’s not the same.)
While the soup started to simmer, I drained the mushrooms (saving the liquid) and chopped them up. All of it went into the pot, even the mushroom broth, and there it sat on the stove, bubbling away for an hour and a half. 90 minutes to fabulous, people. (Read: 90 minutes to sip wine, continue my newfound obsession with Instagram, give Cholula a new toy, and watch Finding Bigfoot.)
We were getting close! I sliced up some fresh mushrooms, and chopped more thyme and some Italian parsley. I cooked up the sliced mushrooms with some seasonings and got a pot of water boiling for noodles. In this kind of stew, only egg noodles will do. John agrees. We are so perfect together.
It was time to add the final touches to the big pot of winter stew! In went the sautéed mushrooms. In went the thyme and most of the parsley. In went a couple of glugs of Worcestershire sauce. And finally, I added just a splash or two of red wine to deepen the flavor. And because it’s delicious.
Instead of stirring the noodles into the stew (and risking mushiness later), I put some in the bottom of each bowl and spooned the stew over them. A sprinkle of parsley on top, a plate of cute little ciabatta rolls on the side, and a glass of red wine- we were ready to eat.
Verdict: this is winter comfort food perfection. Every chunky bite was so satisfying! The flavor of the stew is rich, probably deepened by the mushroom broth. John said he wouldn’t change a thing (yay!). Because I prefer the flavor, I think I might use sherry instead of Marsala next time. And there will be a next time, no question. Just talking about it is making me glance at the clock- yep, lunchtime! Guess what I’m having?
I have a sneaking suspicion that, come the dog days of summer, I’ll take a peek at photos of nights like last night and feel nostalgic and wishful. But starting now, I’m going to make a point to enjoy NOW. After my lunch, I think I’ll take Cholula for a snowy hike in the ‘hood. ‘Tis the season, and in a few months, I’ll wish I had the opportunity!
Guys, you’re my witnesses: I resolve to love TODAY.
It’s the happiest day, after all.
Beef and Wild Mushroom Stew (from Winter Cottage Magazine)
- 1 ounce dried wild mushrooms, such as porcini
- 2 cups boiling water
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
- 2+ cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 32-ounce containers beef broth
- ¼ cup Marsala wine
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- (I added 1 tablespoon fresh thyme and 1/3 cup red wine)
- Cooked egg noodles or rice
In a small bowl, combine the dried mushrooms and the boiling water. Set aside.
In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat until very hot. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Add meat and cook in batches until cubes are browned on all sides. Remove beef from the pot.
Lower heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook onion, carrot, parsnips, and garlic until softened (7 minutes). Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook 2 more minutes then add beef back to the pot. Add Marsala and beef broth and bring to a boil.
Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Chop the mushrooms and add them and the liquid to the soup. Simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
In a sauté pan, heat remaining oil over high heat. Cook sliced fresh mushrooms until softened, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms, parsley, Worcestershire sauce (and thyme and wine, if desired) to the soup.
Serve over rice or noodles and top with fresh parsley. Don’t forget bread for dipping. YUM!