Wednesday, December 8, 2010

French Technique, American Ingenuity

Good evening everyone! Tell me, dear readers, have you ever been browsing a bookstore's cookbook/cooking magazine section and come across a recipe that looked so good you stopped in your tracks and read eagerly read the recipe? No? Just me then? Oh...Well, that very thing happened to me last weekend as we were browsing cooking magazine at our local Barnes & Noble. I was flipping through the pages of a slow cooker magazine and spotted tonight's recipe. It's a hard feeling to explain unless cooking its your hobby. It's like the final minutes before Christmas finding rare gold with a metal stitching that final stitch (for those cross-stitch fans out there). It's pure, unfiltered excitement. The best part is, with this blog, I get to live the excitement all over again as I share the recipe with you! Are you ready? Prepare for joy:

The Recipe: Cheeseburger Stew
Original Recipe Found In: Cuisine Magazine - Slow Cooker Issue

What You'll Need:

1 Pound Lean Ground Beef
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Small Onion (Diced)
1 Celery Rib (Diced)
1 Carrot (Diced)
1 Garlic Clove (Minced)
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Cups Milk
3 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3 Large Russet Potatoes
2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese

This recipe uses a cooking process known as mirepoix - which is a French term applying to the combination of onions, carrots and celery being cooked with butter. This flavor combination creates a base for many French dishes. While I'm not going to sit here and argue that 'cheeseburger stew' is a classic French dish, I just find it interesting that something so timeless and traditional as mirepoix can be used in such a modern and conventional dish as 'cheeseburger stew'.

That's why it's important (and fun!) to cook recipes across multiple regions and techniques. You'd never think that a technique you used to make a labor intensive French duck would come in handy while making quick Spanish style tacos - but it could. Experience is experience is experience - no matter if you think you're going to use it later or not. (Remember that kids asking 'When will I use Algebra again!? You never know - but it's a good thing to have in your toolkit of knowledge).

Anyway - random tangent aside... Begin by melting the butter in a large skillet. Once melted, add the hamburger and cook until fully browned. Once browned, add the onion, carrot, garlic and celery to the skillet and cook for five minutes. Stir occasionally.

Mirepoix - in action

After the onions have softened slightly, stir in the flour, making sure that it's fully incorporated before moving on to the next step. Next, add the milk to the skillet and stir until everything is mixed well. This recipe didn't specify what type of milk was preferred, but given the nature of the stew and the thick, creamy base you're trying to form - I'd wager that whole milk would be your best bet. However, if you like your arteries and are trying to stay a little bit healthy - you can do what we did and use skim milk. Allow the mixture to cook until the milk begins to boil - this should take about 2 minutes. By now, the mixture so be very thick and stew like - if not, allow it to simmer for a few more minutes to thicken up.

Doesn't look too appetizing here - but it smells great! 

In a 3 to 4 quart slow cooker, add the chicken broth and potatoes. Next, pour the hamburger mixture directly from the skillet into the slow cooker. Mix everything well with a spoon and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. The time really doesn't make that big of a difference here, however, as I cooked my stew for upwards of 8 hours and everything turned out just fine! If you need to make this and then leave for work for the day - no worries - you should be just fine.

It's looking a little better now..
After the cooking time is up, add 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the slow cooker and mix until the cheese is completely melted and combined with the stew. Season with a little salt and pepper and enjoy!

The Results:

Now it looks delicious! 

There was good reason to be excited for a dish like this - it was fantastic. The flavor, while not quite like a cheeseburger, was still very, very good. The technique of mirepoix allowed for the base of the stew to have great onion and garlic infused flavor, which really came out in every bite. The nice blending of potatoes and beef set the 'tone' of the dish and the sharp cheddar cheese finished each bite off nicely. In short - this is one dish you're going to want to try!

That's all we have for you this week. With my work schedule in disarray - we only have time to blog two recipes worth this week. We'll be back on Monday with our 'Around The Culinary World' feature and with two or three delicious dishes to share. Have a great weekend everyone (remember, only two shopping weekends left before Christmas - the malls are going to be crazy!). Until Monday,


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