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Beef Stew with Oven Baked Polenta

Although we’ve had warm, nearly 80-degree days here in New Jersey recently, it’s most unusual for this time of year. Cold weather in November is as predictable as election results on the first Tuesday of the month (oh wait………. well, let’s not go there).

And when the down comforter comes out, and the fireplace kicks in, so does my need for comfort food. One of my favorite meals to make (and eat) when the temperature drops, is this beef stew. You may like potatoes in your beef stew, and if so, feel free to add them. But I prefer mine served over creamy, cheesy, soft polenta. And this polenta doesn’t require stirring over a stove for an hour since you make it in the oven, stirring only once every twenty minutes. If you prefer, you can also serve the stew over mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or rice.

Another reason I omit potatoes from beef stew (aside from the fact that reheated potatoes never taste that good) is because I like to set aside some of the beef stew (before the addition of peas and carrots) to use in another recipe, one that I’ll write about in an upcoming blog post. Without divulging that recipe right now, suffice it to say that it’s worth making this beef stew just to have the leftovers. I know you’ll thank me for it later. For now, the beef stew and polenta is pretty darn comforting too.

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Beef Stew with Oven Baked Polenta
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • FOR THE BEEF STEW:
  • 2½ - 3 lbs beef cubes
  • flour for dusting
  • salt and pepper to season the meat
  • ¼ cup olive oil, or more as needed to brown the cubes
  • one large onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup canned cherry tomatoes, (or crushed tomatoes if you can't find the cherry tomatoes)
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 T. minced fresh sage
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 or 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 squirt of "kitchen bouquet" (if you can find it - it helps make everything a richer brown color)
  • FOR THE OVEN BAKED POLENTA:
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. If the beef cubes are large, cut them into smaller pieces, about ½" to ¾."
  2. Dust the cubes with flour, salt and pepper.
  3. Saute the cubes in the olive oil, in one layer, repeating as necessary, and turning on each side until browned,
  4. Remove the beef cubes from the pot, add more olive oil, if needed, and cook the onions over low heat until translucent.
  5. Add the garlic cloves and cook for another couple of minutes
  6. Put the beef cubes back into the pan, and pour in the red wine.
  7. Let it cook for a minute, then add the canned tomatoes, beef broth and water, and season with salt, pepper, paprika, rosemary and sage.
  8. Place the lid on the pot and place in the oven at 325 degrees for 2 - 3 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
  9. Place the frozen peas in the pot about ½ hour before removing it from oven.
  10. Boil the sliced carrots in water and when nearly done, remove the carrots from the water and add to the beef stew in the oven, stirring to blend everything,
  11. If you can find "Kitchen Bouquet," add about 1 teaspoon to the pot.
  12. It will give it a rich, brown color.
  13. If the liquid in the beef stew is not thick enough, remove the cover, and cook on top of the stove for a bit, until some of the liquid has evaporated and thickened.
  14. Serve over polenta, noodles or mashed potatoes.
  15. FOR THE POLENTA:
  16. Whisk together the cornmeal, milk, water and salt.
  17. Place in the oven, uncovered, with the beef stew during its last hour of cooking.
  18. Whisk or sttir every 20 minutes.
  19. If it looks like it needs more liquid, add more water or milk.
  20. After an hour, it should be thickened enough. It will thicken some more when you add the cheese.
  21. If it's still not thickened enough, return to the oven for another 20 minutes,
  22. Add the butter and stir.
  23. Remove from the heat, and stir in the parmesan cheese.
  24. Serve with the beef stew.