In fashion they say that jewel tones are universal colors—meaning everyone looks good in them. Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to them even in the context of food. Colors so rich and vibrant look appealing in any season, but I think most especially in winter. Not only is this stew warm and comforting, but it is chock-full of nutritional benefits and the ingredients are in-season.
This is a meal for a slow, relaxed day at home; plenty of time to prep vegetables and plenty of time for slow braising in the oven. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Conquer by planning or “mise en place” as the French say. Wash, peel and chop your vegetables in stages. Group them together in the same way they will be added in the recipe. I wanted to show you the sheer volume of vegetables in this recipe because it really is incredible, so I took some photos of two of the three cutting boards of vegetables I chopped. I didn’t think to begin photographing until I had already sautéed 2 onions, 4 cloves of garlic and 2 celery stalks, so create a mental picture of that and then behold these:
So many colors and flavors! What I love about this recipe is that it is not your typical beef stew. It has a very different flavor, brought about by the pureed Swiss chard (and a few other ingredients) stirred into the roast liquid which creates a very unique broth. Additionally, the beets have a pronounced role in the flavoring of this dish and also lend a vibrant color to the broth.
The unique and hard-to-describe flavor of this dish leads me to a small confession. The original title of this recipe, which I discovered long ago from Food Network, is “Sweet and Sour Short Ribs.” I have always thought this is a terrible name because it conjures up images of Chinese food. And trust me, this is nothing like Chinese food. Oh and the short ribs? Long ago I discovered that boneless or bone-in chuck roast is an easy and wallet-friendly substitute for beef short ribs. Also short ribs are not always available at the grocery store. Feel free to use either. The benefit of a bone-in short rib (or a bone-in chuck roast for that matter,) is the added flavor those bones will give your broth. The benefit of a boneless roast is that it is easy to cut into bite-size pieces and you won’t have to fish out bones when the stew is done. There is no right or wrong here, only budgets to consider.
I really hope you try this recipe! Once you taste it, I would also love to know what you would name it.
Nourishing Winter Stew
(Adapted from Food Network)
3 lbs boneless chuck roast (or 3 3/4 lbs short ribs/bone-in chuck roast)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped, plus 1 cup chopped celery leaves
2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves chopped
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
5 scallions, roughly chopped
1 1/4 pounds beets, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If using chuck roast, cube roast into bite size (1 inch) pieces. If using short ribs, leave whole. Trim any large pieces of fat. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat in batches and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the meat to a plate.
Add the onions, garlic, chopped celery stalks and paprika and a suitable pinch of salt to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown, about 4 minutes. Add 6 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Return the meat to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, puree the chopped chard, lemon juice, scallions, celery leaves, 1 1/2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth. Remove the pot from the oven; stir in the chard puree, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and sugar. Return the pot to the oven and cook, uncovered, until the meat and vegetables are tender but hold their shape, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours. Remove bones (if any); skim the fat off the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the meat, vegetables and sauce into shallow bowls.