Monday, November 5, 2012

"Dining Out at Home" - Beef Stew for Men

Date I made this recipe:  November 4, 2012

Dining Out at Home by Sophie Leavitt
Published by:  Stackpole Books
© 1966
Recipe:  Beef Stew for Men – p. 60

You wouldn’t necessarily think that a recipe titled “Beef Stew for Men” would set off a firestorm within me, but it did.  Call me sensitive, but after hearing some very interesting things coming out of some politicians’ mouths this election season, I feel like women’s lib has been pushed back into the dark ages.   I mean, come on – “binders of women?” 

So then along came this recipe and I have to say, at first I laughed - “Beef stew for men?  So what—I can cook it but I can’t eat it? Suddenly I was thrust back in time to an Irish Spring commercial from the 70’s featuring a woman picnicking with her man (boyfriend, husband – not sure). (And they’re both Irish which of course makes perfect sense for an Irish Spring commercial.) He says that the bar of soap features “two deodorants to help keep a man clean and fresh” and then she utters the famous tag-line:  “Manly, yes, but I like it, too.”

So in the spirit of the Irish Spring commercial, I just had to ask myself just what about this recipe made it “manly?”  Was it the fact that it contained glazed carrots (Ooh fancy, fancy)?  Was it the addition of wine?  Was it that beef is something only men enjoy? (If you think that’s the case, you clearly haven’t seen me tuck in a filet!) 

Suddenly my snort upon seeing this recipe turned into a rant.  My poor husband started backing out of the room as I went on a mini tirade about this recipe:  “Oh sure, women end up cooking it but it’s intended for men?  What the hell is that all about, huh, huh? And did you know that for years and years most professional chefs were men, not women?  So what recipe do women get to make, Baked Chicken for Women….”

If we had a dog, I’m pretty sure the dog would have been halfway down the alley while I was having this “discussion” with my beloved.

I am not a feminist per se but having grown up during the dawn of the women’s movement (the 60’s and particularly the 70’s), I get particularly irked when I see what appears to be dings at all the strides women have made over the ages.  Never mind that this recipe is from 1966 – I’m making it now, damn it!  I am not a binder, I am woman, hear me roar!  (Okay, true confession time:  I appreciate Helen Reddy’s battle-cry, I Am Woman, but as a singer, I thought the song ended on a weak note instead of a powerful one, and Helen seemed almost apologetic as her voice faded away into the night.  Think about some of today’s kick-ass female vocalists like Pink or Gwen Steffani or even Beyonce and oh yeah, no apologies there.  And if Whitney Houston had gotten a hold of it well, can I just say whoa?  Talk about a roar….)

Speaking of roaring about women’s issues, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, who cracks me up to no end, went on a particularly funny rant of her own in the past couple weeks against the Bic pen company.  Having worked in marketing, I can tell you that every company lives, breathes and dies with selecting the right product for the right market, and the Bic [pen] company is no exception. Ellen announced that we’ve made a lot of progress toward equality but something made her think that we still have a way to go and then announced – true story – that Bic had made a line of pens for women called “Bic for Her.”  In classic Ellen fashion, she said “I know what you’re thinking – it’s about damned time.”  She’s right – that was my very first thought besides What the Hell??

So okay, now we have Beef Stew for Men and Bic [pens] for Her.  Wow, I’m feeling so…special.  I mean, men get their beef stew and we get pens (in women’s colors of pink and purple).  We HAVE made strides, haven’t we?! ;)

So one more comment about women before I actually get to the recipe…for men…and that is that whereas once upon a time, a woman chef in the kitchen was about as rare as roast beef, these days women are making strides.  As you may imagine, I watch a lot of cooking shows and I am pleased to see more and more women competing in some of the chef competitions.  Last night, I watched the next iteration of the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef Redemption and hey, a big whopping four out of ten competitors were women.  So we should be pleased, right?  Well…perhaps if the numbers were half and half, or even better, the majority of cheftestants were women I’d be happier but then again beggars cannot be choosers.  A woman in the kitchen competing alongside men is a good thing.  (And can I just say that I have met Alex(andra) Guarnaschelli who kicked butt and won the evening’s competition?  Oh yeah, she rocks it.).  I cannot wait to see if some of these cheftestants make Beef Stew…for Men!

Despite all this gripping and ranting, the recipe was pretty tasty but then why wouldn’t it be?  The cookbook was written by a woman and cooked by a woman.  Oh yeah—I am woman, hear me roar….(and get the hell out of the way of my chef’s knife [for her?!].  You’ve been warned…)

PS—tomorrow is Election Day.  Get out and vote!

Beef Stew for Men – serves 8
4-lb chuck roast, 2-inch pieces, room temperature (I cut the recipe in half and used two pounds of stew meat)
8 carrots, each cut into 3 pieces
1 T fat to glaze carrots (I used Crisco)
1 ½ T sugar
4 T fat as needed (to brown the meat)
4 T flour
3 cups strained, canned onion soup or dehydrated onion soup as per instructions or 4 bouillon cubes, diluted with 3 cups water
1 cup red burgundy wine
3 T tomato sauce
4 allspice (I happened to have whole allspice on hand but if you don’t, then I would use ground allspice but sparingly)
2 large bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
3 large garlic cloves
¼ tsp pepper to taste
1 ½ tsp salt or more to taste

Glaze carrots by melting fat, adding sugar over carrots, shaking, rolling them around until glazed; then set aside on a plate, getting all the glaze up with a rubber spatula.

Wash out skillet, heat with 1 T fat, brown beef, adding fat as needed; avoid crowding, so as to brown better.  Place in casserole; remove fat from skillet but leave brownings in; set aside while you sprinkle 2 T flour over beef in casserole, shake to distribute, heat in oven over 5 minutes, sprinkle other 2 T flour and shake, heat 5 minutes.

Pour rest of ingredients into skillet, scraping up brownings, and bring to boil.  Pour over beef in casserole adding carrots, bring back to boil before putting in the oven with a lid on.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees.  Cook, stirring once in a while, 2-2 ½ hours.  Correct seasonings.


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