Introduction: Greek Stew
This recipe is for an easy stew that adults and children both love. Fresh tomatoes and green beans can easily be substituted when in season, but I have included the canned/frozen versions here to ensure that the resulting stew will be the most flavorful at any time of year.
If you are pressed for time, or prefer to handle raw meat as little as possible, you might ask the butcher at your grocery store to trim and cut the chuck roast as directed. I would not advise buying a package of 'stew meat', however, as in my experience, this meat tends to be tough. Chuck roast, when cooked properly, will become melt-in-your-mouth, fall-apart tender.
Also, if you don't use alcohol in cooking, you can substitute vegetable juice and grape juice to try to approximate the depth of flavor (pure grape juice will be too sweet, and diluting it with water will not give much character to the stew).
2-3 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1.5-2 inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic (optional)
1/3 bottle semi-sweet or dry red wine
3 medium zucchini
2-3 medium celery ribs
2 medium carrots
1 lb small red potatoes
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 cinnamon sticks
15 whole cloves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 lb green beans (frozen is fine)
salt and black pepper, to taste
The first step would be to heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Drizzle a bit of olive oil around the bottom of the pot (about 2 tbsp, but I don't measure it). When the oil begins to shimmer, add the meat in 2-3 batches. This insures that each batch of meat has plenty of space to brown properly. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the meat to a bowl between batches. When all the meat has been browned, add it (and its juices!) back to the pot along with the chopped onion and garlic, if using. Pour in about a third of a bottle of wine (or the juices, if you are subbing them for wine). Stir well (try to use the wine to loosen and scrape up and bits of fond on the bottom of the pot), reduce heat to low, cover and let that simmer for about half an hour.
This gives you ample time to take care of the rest of your prep work. Halve the zucchinis and slice them about 1/4 inch thick. Do the same with the carrots. Slice the celery on the bias (at an angle - this helps it to keep its shape better throughout cooking), also about 1/4 inch thick. Quarter the potatoes. I leave the skins on because I like the look and taste (and added nutrition value), but if you would prefer to peel them before quartering, by all means please do.
Measure out your spices and add them to the meat along with the potatoes and carrots.
Stir the spices, potatoes and carrots into the meat and enjoy the heavenly smell that the cinnamon sticks and cloves impart!
Next, you will want to add the celery and zucchini to the mix.
Lastly (for this stage, anyway), stir in the undrained tomatoes. The wine and juice from the tomatoes are the only liquids being added to the stew, so they are important. If you are using fresh tomatoes, try to save as much of the juice as possible to add at this step.
I also add the chopped parsley stems at this point. I find that adding the stems earlier than the leaves gives them time to soften and release their flavor into the stew. We will stir in the leaves just before serving, to add color and a pop of fresh flavor.
Isn't this stew pretty and colorful? I have noticed that even children who are normally picky eat this without any issue. Maybe it's the spices, but it does seem to be a way to get them to eat vegetables and meat.
Allow the stew to simmer at a low heat for another half hour after you have added the tomatoes and vegetables. Then add in the green beans (I usually add them while they are still frozen - just increase the heat slightly to bring the stew back to a simmer). Cover and cook until they are just tender. Also, if the stew seems to soupy when you are stirring in the beans, add the tomato paste to help thicken it slightly. About 30 minutes more, and your stew should be ready!
This would be an excellent time to put on a pot of rice, to make sure that everything is done at about the same time. I personally prefer Basmati or Texmati rice for the fragrant qualities, but feel free to use your own favorite. You might also use the time to clean up the dishes. Or you could do what I do - take a nap!
When the beans are tender, stir in the finely chopped parsley leaves. Taste and add salt and black pepper as needed. If desired, reserve a small amount for garnishing each bowl.
Serve the stew over hot rice or egg noodles. Or you could even serve the stew by itself, perhaps accompanied by a bit of crusty french bread for sopping up the juice. Garnish each portion with any remaining parsley.
Other delicious bits to serve with Greek Stew include crumbled feta and kalamata olives.
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