Just go with your nose and stew it ! - MEAT STEW WITH POTATOES - STUFATO DI CARNE E PATATE

    I literally went with my nose for this recipe and I let the food direct me (or more likely I let it scream at me as to what it wanted me to add in the pot - I promise I am not crazy, and everything is explained in this post). 
Though I admit that this time the recipe could have gone deeply wrong, au contraire, this particular stew adventure turned out to be the most delicious one yet. 

    In an effort to satisfy all of the different palates in my family, a little bit out of laziness, and mainly to find a way out of having to cook all different dishes while trying to desperately give myself a one-night break, I started making this stress-free sirloin and potato stew a few years ago. Though this one-dish has become a weekly staple in our house, I must tell you that throughout the years no two stews have tasted the same, or have "called" for the very same ingredients. Each time the meat goes in the pot, my nose (and the "yelling" from the beef - again... not crazy... I assure you ;) tell me to follow a different step, add a different spice, or a different veg; and the results are each and every time completely surprising and pleasing. 

      In this particular instance, I had it in my head that this time the gravy would be enriched by some flavorful saffron, and that the meat would be browned in a tasty wine reduction, but instead, my brain kept hearing: "Put some expresso in it!".  I tried to convince myself to carry on with my cooking and to stop listening to the weird voices in my head, but they kept crawling in louder and louder. So, instead of reaching for the saffron, all of a sudden, I found myself holding a mug with two shots of espresso in it! ...Yes, you have read correctly! Espresso! 
Thinking that the beef could not possibly be calling for espresso, and fighting the urge to use it, I had subconsciously all along started to pour the espresso in the dutch oven where the meat was cooking nicely. I covered my eyes, told myself aloud that this was probably a huge mistake, and that I was definitely wasting some good meat. But at that point, there was no way back from there, and I had to suck up whatever concussion I was creating.

As I raised the heat and the sauce started bubbling up, all of a sudden the coffee aroma was
gone, and the kitchen was overcome by a sublime smoked scent. "Could this actually work?"
I quickly called my son, the pickiest of palate in the family, I had him taste the meat, and challenged him to figure out the secret ingredient. Not only could he not detect the coffee flavor, but he communicated in a very excited voice that that was the most delicious stew I had ever made. SUCCESS!

This is exactly why I am so excited to share my (very) bold cooking trick with you, and I hope wholeheartedly that you will trust my brave exploit, and that you will share how your own creations come out in the comment section below. Happy stewing!

(Serves 5)
  • 2 pounds of good marbelized sirloin steak tips
  • 4 lg. or 6 medium potatoes (any kind - red or yellow work very well)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tsp of cajun powder
  • 1 tsp of chili powder
  • EVOO
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs of tomato sauce (crushed or pureed both work well)
  • A few leaves of fresh parsley, basil, or rosemary (Depending on what the meat inspires you to use)
  • 2 oz. of espresso, or a dark roast coffee (trust me on this!)
  • Optional: organic mixed carrots, 2 garlic cloves, 4-5 organic grape tomatoes
Let's get cooking...
  • In a Dutch oven or stainless steel pot pour some EVOO, the chopped onion, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the rosemary
  • Stir and cook on low for a couple of minutes, or until the onions become translucent
  • Add the beef pieces (cutting them in half so they are all of the same size for an even cooking)
  • Sprinkle some salt, pepper, the chili and cajun powders, 1 tbs of tomato sauce, and stir gently
  • Cover, and let simmer for 2 minutes on low-medium heat
  • In the meantime, brew the espresso or dark coffe
  • Pour the coffee onto the beef, and raise the heat up a notch 
  • Stir, and let simmer without the lid for 5 minutes (the coffee smell will dissipate and the meat will turn a dark color while bubbling - no need to panic anymore at this point, everything will be fine!)
  • Cut the potatoes (you can choose to peel them or not), and add them to the pot
  • Add 1 tbs of sauce, a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Add a cup of hot water to the pot  to retain the moisture while cooking
  • Stir and cook covered for 45-50 minutes (testing the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork after 35 minutes, and stirring gently once in a while)
  • When the potatoes are soft, let sit for 10 minutes before serving

Buon Appetito!
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