Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cast Iron Chef: Beef & Barley Stew

So far during Cast Iron Chef week, I've used a cast iron grill grate and the cast iron skillet. Last night, we brought out the "big gun", the venerable dutch oven.

The dutch oven, especially the "camp" dutch oven that I use, has been around for centuries. The thing I love about it is that you can use it on a stove top, in an oven, over a fire, in a Big Green Egg or topped with lit charcoal briquettes. I think the latter is my favorite, especially when "nesting" two or more ovens like below when we were camping with my parents in Cades Cove this past summer.

What really sold me on the idea of dutch ovens was my mother's mixed fruit cobbler that she baked in a campground when all the other campers were just eating burnt hot dogs.

But before I keep going, I want to cover seasoning or more importantly, REseasoning of cast iron. Donna of My Tasty Treasures mentioned that she had gotten her hands on some used cast iron cookware but one of the pieces had slight rust and asked if there was a remedy for that.

Take a bit of very fine sandpaper or steel wool and rub off the rust spot as lightly as possible. Then wash and reseason the pot/pan as described below by the good folks at Lodge Manufacturing. Lodge is a local company (South Pittsburg, TN) and in my opinion, the premier cast iron cookware company. If that's not good enough for you, my mom says it is the best too.....so take it up with her:)

How To Re-season Cast Iron

Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. (It is okay to use soap this time because you are preparing to re-season the cookware).

Rinse and dry completely.

Apply a thin, even coating of MELTED solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware (inside and out).

Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any dripping.

Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.

Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven.

Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.

Since it has snowed all day yesterday and we haven't had temperatures above freezing in 4 days, I decided to make Pam's (For The Love Of Cooking) Beef & Barley Stew in my #12 Lodge cast iron dutch oven. The green text is copied and pasted from her kick ass food blog. I might have altered the credit a bit. The pics are mine, you can tell, they don't look as good as her's :)

Beef and Barley Stew:
Recipe BLATANTLY STOLEN FROM For the Love of Cooking.net
Adapted recipe from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
  • 2 tsp olive oil (divided)
  • 2 lbs of lean chuck, diced
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of beef broth
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz of mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 5-6 fingerling potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup of pearled barley
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with a little water
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the beef in batches and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until caramelized. Once the beef is cooked, add the onion and garlic and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add the beef broth, bay leaves and season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and place into the oven for 2-3 hours.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, fingerling potatoes and pearled barley to the beef soup. Cover and cook on the stove top over medium low heat for 45-60 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the pearled barley is cooked through. Mix a bit of cornstarch with some water and stir until completely dissolved. Add the cornstarch slurry to the boiling soup and stir. Remove from the heat and serve. Enjoy.

Make sure you don't crowd the beef while browning. We did ours in about 4 small batches.

I like this recipe because it starts on the stove top...

Then gets covered and goes into the oven for a few hours where the magic happens inside the dutch oven. (I think there's something like the Keebler Elves inside there making it 12 kinds of awesome but I haven't been able to get a picture of them.)

Finally it ends up back on the stove top.

Mine wasn't near as pretty as Pam's, but it was the absolute best beef stew I've ever had in my life and Alexis agreed.

Just a bowl of that and a chunk of bread slathered with some gorgonzola cheese butter was the absolute perfect cold night meal.

Time for a game of "Versus" in the comments:
1) dutch oven versus crock pot
2) enamel covered dutch oven versus plain
3) On a cold, cold night: chili versus stew