On a walk through the West Village today I got the essential ingredients I needed to make beef stew. First stop: Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market.
This butcher shop on Bleecker Street is one of those family-owned businesses that I hope won’t fade into the past because I enjoy that old-school feeling of asking the local butcher what’s good today. I told him I was making beef stew and he took a piece of meat and cut it into chunks as I waited and thought of future dishes I could make with the various cuts of meat—Porterhouse, lamb chops, dry aged steaks—in the case.
As he handed me the meat wrapped in paper, he joked that my toddler was going to eat it all. I giggled then strolled out and walked up Seventh Avenue, making our way to the pet store in Christopher Street so little cupcake could look at the puppies in the window, then over to Greenwich Ave. where I wanted to check out the new wine shop that opened a few months ago. Le Vigne will first catch your eye because of its interior: black floors, white tables and shelves, rustic walls, but it’s the Italian-only artisanal wines that will keep you interested.
For my stew (and to drink while I cooked), I bought the Rainoldi Nebbiolo from Lombardy—the cherry, herb and anise flavors added a rich depth to the stew. For the other ingredients—carrots, potatoes and pearl onions—I went to a boring supermarket; nothing exciting to note there, except the end result: this hearty beef stew.
Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market/ 285 Bleecker St/212-675-4217
Le Vigne/35 Greenwich Ave b/w W. 10th & Charles/212-255-0222
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, for frying, plus more to drizzle
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 to 3 pounds beef chuck shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle good quality dry red wine (see above)
8 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tablespoon thyme
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups beef stock
6 cups potatoes cut into quarters
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups pearl onions, fresh or frozen
1/2 pound peas, fresh or frozen
Make the stew
Preheat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat with the oil and butter. While the pan is heating, arrange the flour on a large dish. Season the cubed beef with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and then toss in the flour to coat. Shake off the excess flour and add the beef chunks in a single layer to the hot pan, being careful not to over crowd the pan. Thoroughly brown all of the cubes on all sides. Once all the meat has been browned remove it and set aside.
Add the wine to the pan and heat to a simmer while you scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, loosening up all the tasty bits. Once the wine has gotten hot add the browned meat, thyme, smashed garlic, cinnamon, freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste, bay leaves and beef stock. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the liquids start to thicken, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours.
After 2 hours add potatoes, carrots, and pearl onions, along with a pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Add the frozen peas during the last minute of cooking. Season with salt and pepper and remove thyme sprigs if you used fresh ones. Serve with wine and bread.