Sunday Rambutan and Beef Stew

At the grocery store this morning, I saw the beauties above. They’re rambutan.

If you’re from SE Asia, or have travelled through there, you may know about this luscious fruit. Inside is a soft, sweet, and citrusy delicacy that cannot be grown in the U.S. This batch is from Ecuador and comes just once a year.

Given that a significant rainstorm is coming today, sorely needed for our foliage and trout, I’ve decided to cook a braised Sunday Dinner. It will be beef stew. I’ve developed a recipe over the years. My children want me to start logging my recipes, and so, here it is. This batch will serve 8.

Our children have chilled sparkling apple cider in wine glasses during Sunday Dinner, and so, I’m hoping that and the stew will comprise a good meal that will fortify them for the upcoming work week.

INGREDIENTS

3 slices of bacon (ideally, the thick kind with a dry rub)

3 pounds of chuck roast (you can use sirloin tips or blade steak, too; do not use top round, bottom round, or the pre-cut stew meet the stores offer)

3 carrots, peeled cubed

1 onion, cubed

6 stalks of celery, cubed

A handful of flat-leaf celery, chopped

1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 cup of really good red wine

1 dash of brandy or cognac

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes (this will disintegrate and thicken the stew and give it a very rich taste)

1 lb. golden potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 bay leaf

3 dashes of liquid smoke

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

6 cups of water

INSTRUCTIONS

Dice the bacon and cook over medium heat until crispy in a Dutch oven. Set aside and leave bacon fat in the pot.

Cut the chuck roast into 2″ cubes. Salt and pepper. Sautée over medium-high heat in the Dutch oven. Do in batches. Don’t let the pieces of beef touch, or the pot’s temperature will lower too much and meat will steam rather than brown. Take your time with each batch. You want a very dark brown sear on all sides, if possible, as it will create tremendous flavor. Take out and set aside.

Sautée vegetables, dashes of salt and pepper, and tomato paste until everything is golden brown. Don’t burn the tomato paste. This too is a critical step and will create a very complex layer of flavor.

Lower heat to medium. Add the red wine, brandy/cognac, and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any cooked bits and release their flavor.

Combine all ingredients. Cook 4 to 5 hours in a 260-degree oven, covered. One hour in, taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. Periodically, peek in the pot to make sure the water has not completely evaporated.

When ready to serve, add water (and, salt and pepper) if the stew looks thin. If it looks too watery, place on your range, remove the top, and cook down the stew until it thickens to your liking. Add the cooked bacon on top of each serving.

This dish is good as-is or served with mashed potatoes or rice. Perhaps, with crusty bread, warmed in the oven, and served with butter. Either way, I will end my meal tonight with a big bowl of vanilla ice cream.

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