The good ‘ol beef stew typically conjures up a “just-like-Mom-used-to-make” sentiment. However in Restaurant Baby household, we did not eat traditional Western beef stews. Beef stew did not hold a special place in my heart.
It wasn’t that I did not enjoy a good beef stew, but there was never a craving or a fond memory associated with this classic American comfort food. Well, that all changed on a journey down into the Grand Canyon a few years ago. My friend Tommy and I decided to hike all the way down and back up the Grand Canyon on a free weekend.
Many a good memories came from that trip, and one of them is the Hiker’s beef stew dinner at the Phantom Ranch. Maybe it was the whole day of hiking, maybe it is the crack they put in the stew . . . either way it was awesome. To this day, a good bowl of stew brings back memories from that trip. What memories do you have with your favorite comfort foods?
The beef stew made today is from Nina Simonds’ Spices of Life . The inspiration came from a half bottle of red wine in the fridge, some accidentally half-frozen bok choy and carrots at the bottom the veggie drawer, and a couple of questionable onions. I love the star anise flavor in this; it totally made the stew!
Star Anise Beef Stew with Bok Choy
Adapted from Spices of Life by Nina Simonds
- 2 pounds beef stewing meat (chuck or bottom round)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed lightly
- 6 small onions (1 pound), peeled and cut into 6 wedges
- 1 ½ whole star anise, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
- 1 cup rice wine or sake
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ cup reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1 pound carrots cut in half lengthwise and then into 1 ½-inch lengths
- 1 bunch bok choy, for 4-6 cups of greens and stalks when chopped until 2-inch lengths
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the meat into 1 ½-inch cubes. Mix together the flour, salt, and pepper on a plate. Coat the meat with the seasoned flour by rolling the pieces on the plate.
Heat a 4-6 quart Dutch oven and add 1 ½ tablespoon oil. When it is very hot, add a batch of the beef and brown on all sides over medium-high heat. Remove from the pan and set aside. Heat the remaining oil, fry the remaining beef, and remove and set aside.
Add the garlic, onions, and star anise to the pot. Fry briefly over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice wine, red wine, and chicken broth and stir to mix together. Add the beef cubes and carrots, and bring the liquid to a boil.
Cover tightly and place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Bake for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. While the stew is baking, wash the bok choy and chop stalks into 2-inch portions. Separate out the thick stalks from the leafy greens. Add the thick bok choy stalks to the beef stew after 1 hour. Add the green leafy portions of bok choy when there is 10 minutes left in the oven.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with steamed rice, noodles, or spelt.