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Better Than Bourguignon!

A couple weeks ago Val and I were invited to a birthday celebration of a dear friend. His generous gift to us was to make a Greek Meze that included over 14 different plates, celebrating Greece and the surrounding areas. Being the superb cook that he is, Vitali pulled out all the stops! There was hummus, olives, roasted bell peppers, Greek salad, tzatziki, feta, beet salad, fried halloumi, a Greek soup made with dehydrated yogurt called Tranhanas, Spanakopita, Soutzoukakia (Greek meatballs in tomato sauce), stuffed grape leaves, stuffed bell peppers, and my favorite, Stifado (Greek beef stew).

I must admit that I am extremely fussy about beef in general and do not eat it very often. Many times when I try a beef stew, I’m disappointed by the dry texture of the end result (in my defense I’m that way with anything I find overcooked). I guess I’m a bit of a texture freak. However this stew, this Stifado blew my mind! The meat was extremely tender, the sauce beautifully balanced and flavorful. Although I was already quite full, I managed a second helping and was delighted to bring some leftovers home.

When selecting a chuck roast for this recipe, make sure you select one that is generously marbled. The fat within the meat will help the pieces stay moist. Although Vitali didn’t use a set recipe, the technique is similar to any stew in browning the meat in batches on all sides to seal in the moisture in the meat. The seasoning in this dish is where the magic happens; red wine vinegar, red wine, LOTS of shallots, a couple bay leaves, some Aleppo pepper flakes, ground cumin and a cinnamon stick. Since the sauce is so delicious, simple boiled potatoes are the perfect side, along with plenty of red wine! Don’t forget to kiss the cook!

BEEF STIFADO

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 3-4 lbs of good quality chuck roast

  2. 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  3. 3 cups sliced shallots

  4. 3/4 cup red wine vinegar

  5. 1 bottle decent dry red wine (you’ll use most of it, along with a glass for the cook!)

  6. A generous spoonful of tomato paste

  7. 2 bay leaves

  8. 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes

  9. 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  10. 1 small cinnamon stick

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the chuck roast into 1.5 inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper on all sides. In a cast iron skillet or something similar, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear pieces in batches, on all sides, making sure to leave some room between each piece so they brown but don’t steam. Place finished pieces in a Dutch oven.

  2. Add 2 more tablespoons of olive to your skillet and saute the shallots, stirring frequently until lightly golden and soft. Add these to your Dutch oven as well. Deglaze the skillet with red wine vinegar, scraping up browned bits. Pour remaining vinegar in Dutch oven. Add tomato paste, cumin and Aleppo pepper, stirring to combine. Pour wine into Dutch oven, enough to almost cover. Add bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Cover and place in oven for 90 minutes. Uncover and roast for 15 minutes more.

  3. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Serve with boiled potatoes and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.

Serves 4-6

“Greece is the most magical place on Earth” – Kylie Bax.
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