Wednesday, March 17, 2010

a winter beef and roasted root vegetable stew with whole cloves of garlic

The produce section of the local grocery store fascinates me. The piles of tomatoes and avocados and apples delights my nose and eyes, of course, but I'm drawn to the wall where they display gnarled roots of ginger, white and green kohlrabi, long white parsnips masquerading as albino carrots. This is where they keep the lovely edible toys I haven't learned how to play with, yet, and it's exciting to imagine the possibilities.

That's where this stew comes from. Carrots, of course, I am familiar with; potatoes and their sweet cousins, onions, garlic are all familiar kitchen buddies. But my exploration into the world of root vegetables ends about there. I had recently discovered beets at a local farm, to my great delight, and was curious about their underground fellows. So one afternoon I loaded up my shopping cart with any root vegetable I set my eye on and this stew came out of the melee.

There's just something about stew for cold nights. I guess being warm and thick and tasty is enough of an excuse. This particular stew is thickened with roasted sweet potatoes (no flour, no corn starch, nothing) and studded with whole garlic cloves. I'm rather fond of it.

Winter Beef Stew
(with root vegetables and massive amounts of garlic)

Serves four

1 medium turnip
1 parsnip
2 med. sweet potatoes
2 med. carrots
1 onion
3 heads garlic (Yes, I mean three full heads, not three poor lonely cloves)
3 beets
Olive oil
1 lb stew beef
2 cups beef broth
¼ C apple juice
1 small potato
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Peel turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and chop into haphazard, uneven chunks (about ¾ inch). If you want to be precise and make beautiful even-sided cubes, go ahead. It will taste the same. But I like my stew to have some character, and I couldn’t chop beautiful even-sided cubes if I tried. Peel garlic (but leave the cloves whole). Chop onions. On a baking pan, drizzle one half of the chopped sweet potatoes with olive oil and grind on pepper. If you’re cooking for my mother, lots of pepper.

If you're confused when I say "sweet potatoes" and the pictures clearly state "uneven orange cubes and lopsided white cubes," know that according to the farmer's market booth we bought them at, the white ones are sweet potatoes too.

Roast the sweet potatoes in the 400 degree oven.

These sweet potatoes are going in early because, ideally, they're going to be roasted so soft that they'll fall apart and thicken the stew, later on. In fact, it's less that we're thickening the stew with sweet potatoes and more that we're thinning roasted sweet potatoes with beef broth.

Put the rest of the vegetables (beets, turnips, garlic, onion, etc) on another baking sheet with olive oil and pepper. The picture above is them after they've roasted deliciously for a bit.

After the sweet potatoes have been roasting for 10 minutes, the other pan of vegetable goes in the oven, too. Roast both pans for another forty minutes or until a fork slides easily into the vegetables on the second pan. Remove both from oven.

While the vegetables are roasting, brown the beef in batches in a frying pan. Don’t worry about cooking it all the way through yet. Put the browned beef in the stew pot and cover with beef broth. Add apple juice and the sweet potatoes from the first pan. Bring to boil then lower the heat. Let cook uncovered for a half hour. Stir occasionally, and don’t worry about the sweet potatoes falling apart, because they will. In fact, you can smash them against the sides of the pan if you want. If you’ve got a friend in the kitchen with destructive tendencies, let them play.

Peel and chop the potato and fry it in the pan you used to cook to meat. We don’t want to waste that tasty fat. Cook until browned and delicious.

After the stew has cooked for the half hour, add the potatoes and the vegetables from the second baking sheet. Fold them in, let the stew heat through, and serve piping hot with good French bread for wiping the bowl clean.

This stew made for a lovely Sunday night dinner, where it was kindly devoured by a brilliant group of friendly college students. Large amounts of the cooking labors were taken on heroically by The Snark, AM, JM, conquering sweet potatoes the size of people's heads, peeling more cloves of garlic than I've seen in months (that blame lies on the college dining commons who aren't not as fond of the pungent bulb as I), braving a blisteringly hot oven, and not eating it before everyone else got there. JM took some lovely photos as well. With the help of GS and MA, bread and cheese were magically sliced and dishes magically done.

AM made some absolutely delicious spam musubi. I just finished the little I stole that night and I miss it already.

DC brought Martinelli's, to make a feast of it. The Pi Queen baked a delicious pie from scratch with a filling of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I'm posting a picture just to torment you, as I didn't make it and don't have the recipe.

Jealous, aren't you?

I'm submitting this post to Weekend Wokking, hosting by Sijeleng of Javaholic. Weekend Wokking is a monthly international food blogging event centered around the celebration of a single ingredient in as many tasty dishes as possible. This month's ingredient is GARLIC. Weekend Wokking is the brain-child of WC of Wandering Chopsticks. Thank you WC! Thank you Sijeleng for hosting!


  1. This is a fabulous stew. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I have bookmarked it.

    I have never used 3 heads of garlic in a dish before but I''m keen to try. I also like to pan fry potatoes before putting them to cook with the meat.

  2. KC, I'm glad you like it! Because you roast the garlic, they come out very mild and sweet. I was afraid they'd be overpowering, but it turned out well. (I love roasting any bulb or vegetable that comes out of the ground.) As for the potatoes, I'm not to fond of the starchy root. I find turnips and sweet potatoes and things much more flavorful; but then I thought of the pan full of meat drippings...

    I hope you enjoy it!


I'd love to hear from you! Share thoughts, comments, reminisces of delicious things you've eaten, opinions, suggestions, knowledge, questions...