NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

March 20, 2013

1 beef stew, 3 themes

Learn a basic formula, then change up the flavor

(Continued)

Get creative and come up with your own variation on the beef stew theme, following Wright’s formula.

NOW YOU’RE STEWING

Clifford Wright’s beef stew tips:

Cuts from the chuck or round work best. “You cook them a long time, which melts the connective tissue (and) makes the whole piece of meat taste so flavorful and tender.”

Look for huge pieces of meat on sale and cut it in cubes. “If it’s a 4-pound piece, I may get two or three meals out of that.”

You don’t have to brown the meat. But “we like to brown it, especially if it’s floured. It creates a thickener for the sauce that makes the gravy —— plus it creates another level of flavor when the caramelized flour on the beef gets crusty.”

Don’t crowd the beef or it will steam, not brown. Don’t overlap pieces. You may need to work in batches.

“You want to brown it fast, not quickly...On medium-high heat, it’s going to brown in 5 to 8 minutes.”

Choose a stewing liquid. “If you want to play with flavors down the line, go with water. But if you’ve got an idea in mind right from the get-go, then you can use beef stock, wine.”

General tips:

Think about colors, textures and complementary flavors.

Unsure of where to start? Check out Elisabeth Rozin’s “The Flavor-Principle Cookbook.” She details how similar ingredients in stews and similar dishes will take on the flavor profile of different cuisines by changing an element. Olive oil and tomato are basic Mediterranean flavors. Add garlic for Italian, saffron for Spanish, mixed herbs for French Provencal, or cinnamon and/or lemon for Greek.

Can’t use flour? Brown meat without dredging, then simmer. During the final hour of cooking, crush potatoes or use another starch (corn or potato) to thicken; also reduce liquid atop the stove.

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