Nico’s 9th Birthday Party

On one of the coldest days in the dead of winter, the choice of Beef Stew (for the adults) seemed natural for Nico’s birthday party. Plus, I just received a new recipe in the mail from Chris Kimball for the “Best Beef Stew“. The result: compliments from everybody at the table. The flavor was perfectly balanced . The texture was exactly what I was hoping for (I was a little afraid of a runny mess). Success.

Also, the stew gave me plenty of time to work on the rest of dinner while it sat unattended in the oven. I made Shrimp Salad as a special request, even though it doesn’t go with Beef Stew. Also, I essentially had to cook two dinners (4 Pizzas for the kids). Overall:  Seldom has dinner for 20 people come together so smoothly.


  • I wasn’t sure exactly how many adults were coming (somewhere between 8 and 11). And since the recipe is supposed to  serve between 6 and 8 that meant I had to double the potatoes from 1 to 2 pounds. (While the recipe calls for 4 pounds of chuck roast, I had bought 6 pounds. Unfortunately after carving up the roast I ended up with only the requisite 4 pounds)
  • My apologies to Greg and Elena because you ended up with the “vegetarian” version (sin carne). Next time you’ll have to come earlier!
  • The potatoes weren’t cooked after 45 minutes in the 300 degree oven. And since the Kid’s Pizzas had to go into the oven, so I continued to simmer the stew on the stovetop. The stew required more attention on the stovetop, and the extra stirring broke down some of the meat from their nice cube shape. But nobody seemed to notice (except me).

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $27. Served 9. ($15 in beef and $5 for added wine)
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 2:15 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM.  (But could have been quicker)

3 Hours in the oven means very little effort for a nice dinner for 9 adults.

Contemplating the birthday wish with friends

5 Responses to Nico’s 9th Birthday Party

  1. Serves 6 to 8. Published January 1, 2010. From Cook’s Illustrated.

    2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
    4 anchovy fillets , finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
    1 tablespoon tomato paste
    1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 large onion , halved and cut from pole to pole into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
    4 medium carrots , peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
    1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    2 cups red wine
    2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    2 bay leaves
    4 sprigs fresh thyme
    4 ounces salt pork, rinsed of excess salt.
    1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions , thawed
    2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (about 1 packet)
    1/2 cup water
    1 cup frozen peas , thawed
    Table salt and ground black pepper


    1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine garlic and anchovies in small bowl; press with back of fork to form paste. Stir in tomato paste and set mixture aside.

    2. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Do not season. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add half of beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke or fond begins to burn. Transfer beef to large plate. Repeat with remaining beef and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, leaving second batch of meat in pot after browning.

    3. Reduce heat to medium and return first batch of beef to pot. Add onion and carrots to Dutch oven and stir to combine with beef. Cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.

    4. Slowly add wine, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase heat to high and allow wine to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme, and salt pork. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 11/2 hours.

    5. Remove pot from oven; remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.

    6. Using large spoon, skim any excess fat from surface of stew. Stir in pearl onions; cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are cooked through and meat offers little resistance when poked with fork (meat should not be falling apart), about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and allow to soften for 5 minutes.

    7. Increase heat to high, stir in softened gelatin mixture and peas; simmer until gelatin is fully dissolved and stew is thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve.

    Use a good-quality, medium-bodied wine, such as Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir, for this stew. Try to find beef that is well marbled with white veins of fat. Meat that is too lean will come out slightly dry. Four pounds of blade steaks, trimmed of gristle and silver skin, can be substituted for the chuck-eye roast. While the blade steak will yield slightly thinner pieces after trimming, it should still be cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Look for salt pork that is roughly 75 percent lean. The stew can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat it gently before serving.

  2. Confucius says:

    Happy Birthday Nico!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We miss you a lot, big boy!!

    Confucius, the Confused Chinese

  3. Donna says:

    I love stew. That looks delicious.

  4. […] of the oven making my house all the more pleasant. Checking back, I haven’t made one since January. Classic French recipe ready in one afteroon, rather than 3 […]

  5. […] the stew for Saturday’s dinner. The outcome was spectacular, 5-stars. Better than the first time I made over a year ago. Beefiest stew yet. Amazing. (Sorry for quality of the Camera Phone […]

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