Kachemak Cuisine: Meat stew makes good camp meal

Happy September! Thank goodness the evenings are cooler and the sun actually sets, providing dreamy darkness for much needed restorative slumber after those busy summer days that never seem to end. There’s so much to do and that needs getting done, needs time and attention before the long Alaska winter descends upon us. Don’t forget we needed to find time for a little fun as well.

What a warm and dry August it was. New acquisitions of two fans, an air conditioner and more summer clothes take up space in our already too-full house. What is with this continuing heat? Good grief, usually by the time I turn the calendar over to August I can pretty much guess the rain will start and warmer temperatures will fly south with the cranes. Not this year.

I am done spending countless evenings and weekend days in the raspberry patch other than the occasional visit to pick a few super dark and sweet berries to eat while on my way to the garden to unearth or cut something fresh to be added to the dinner menu. I have never picked so many beautiful raspberries as I have this year — so many in fact the Other Fisherman felt his assistance was needed or he would never get to enjoy his dinner before 9 p.m. I enjoyed escaping to the berry patch and hiding out for hours on end. It was the perfect excuse to not clean house, do up the dirty dishes or any other unpleasant chore. Better than that though, time spent outdoors with the raspberries gave me lots of time to let my mind wander like the big fluffy clouds floating overhead and appreciate the beauty of Alaska.

This time of year, the Other Fisherman is getting ready to make his annual trip to the secret hunting grounds. As he is in charge of planning meals for camp, I can’t resist lending a hand and offering to prepare a few special dinner dishes each year. It is the least I can do to let him know how much I love having a freezer full of moose meat to cook with all year.

Sunday night I was looking forward to spending time indoors chopping, stirring and seasoning my way through the evening of a busy weekend, and it was finally raining. The last request was for old- fashioned moose stew, something I’ve made many times. I wanted to kick it up a notch, so I sat down at the counter with my laptop and glass of wine and started perusing recipes. I came across my old friend Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for beef stew and thought it sounded delicious. I was contemplating making boeuf bourginon rather than stew, and his recipe seemed to vaguely combine a bit of the two preparations. I loved the idea of added mushrooms and red wine. It’s not traditional beef stew, and it turned out delicious.

I added our homegrown potatoes and carrots to tender moose meat for this recipe. The grits are just fun and something different. You can substitute polenta for the grits or make that first batch of creamy mashed potatoes with new potatoes from your garden. This recipe is better re-heated and served the next day.

Beef Stew with Cheesy Fried Grits

This hearty dish is great during the winter months.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 1/2 to 3 hours

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless beef chuck, or tender cut of moose, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon Emeril’s Original Essence

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup vegetable oil plus more for additional browning

2 cups chopped yellow onions

2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 turnip, chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 can diced tomatoes and their liquid

16 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered

2 cups dry red wine

3 cups beef stock

1-pound potatoes, like Yukon gold or russets, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup fresh or frozen green peas

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Fresh chives, garnish

Chopped chives, garnish

Cheesy Fried Grits

Directions

Place the meat in a dish and season with 2 teaspoons of the Essence. Combine the flour with the remaining teaspoon of Essence. Dredge the meat in the flour to lightly coat, shaking to remove any excess.

In a large pot, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the meat in batches and cook, stirring until evenly browned. As the meat browns, remove to a plate, adding more oil as needed.

Add the onions, carrots, and turnip, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook until brown, about 2 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, thyme, and tomatoes, and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Add the peas to the stew during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves and thyme stems. Add the parsley and stir to combine.

Arrange the fried grit squares in shallow bowls and ladle the stew over the grits. Garnish with chopped chives and fresh chive stems.

I am happy to say so long to summer for a while as I wave good-bye and wish good luck to the hunters in our family, as this means it’s the beginning of fall and life can slow down a bit. I think? I won’t pack the fans or my shorts away yet, just in case.

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