Today was the perfect day for this stew. Despite my earnest promise of a crisp, clear fall day, we woke to gusty rain. Jason and I set off to Eastern Market and started cooking. I offer my sincere thanks to those of you who stood out in the rain, huddled under umbrellas, waiting 45 minutes from the first wafts of rich, beefy goodness until bowls of streaming stew were served up hot!
When I came across the inspiration for this stew, I was excited, but it disappointed. The squash was flat and grassy. The beef? Barely there. Roasting the squash and a homemade beef stock would solve the problem. While well worth the effort, I’m sure, the average weeknight doesn’t afford me the twelve hours a good beef stock takes. How to speed this up?
Carrots added with the squash brought out butternut’s sweetness and a splash of cider vinegar brightened it up. Brandy, and miso gave the beef flavor depth, while butter – good, rich, creamy, grassy, Amish butter – gave the soup the richness it needed.
Beef and Pumpkin Stew
- 1.5 lbs lean stew beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 medium butternut squash, cut in 1/2inch cubes
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 6-8 cups stock
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- Cider vinegar
- 1-2 tbs butter
- 2 tbs red miso, mashed with a tbs water into a thin paste
- Heat a 6-8 qt heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven over med-high heat. Add oil and heat until smoking. Cook beef in batches, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Sear until brown. Remove beef to a bowl and reserve. The beef juices will brown on the bottom of your pot. Don’t worry, this is pure flavor!
- Add onion to pot, cook until soft. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add 1 cup stock and deglaze pot, scraping up the rich brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Add squash, carrot, thyme, bay, reserved beef and remaining stock. Simmer until squash is soft. 30-45 minutes.
- Remove half the squash and carrot, and mash or run through a food mill.
- Return the mashed squash to the pot. Season to taste with a splash of vinegar and brandy, butter, miso paste, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes to thicken.