L and I usually go out for dinner on Friday nights. We always go to the same place, a neighbourhood restaurant that has become an institution in this city. The food is solid North American diner food; nothing fancy, but fresh and home-made, if not healthy (I take that back, the salads are wonderfully wholesome). The diners are mostly regulars who wait to sit in the section of their favourite waiter. Ours is Sam, who rarely smiles, but always brings us the best house wine and who knows exactly what our kids will want, every time.
Because we’ve been going there for years we have become close to the owner, also an institution, who brings us platters of wonderful Lebanese food (he and much of the staff are Lebanese) that isn’t on the menu. We always eat too much and it’s always a fight to pay. It’s also the time that I feel closest to this community.
But this week I am fighting a bug and couldn’t face the best house wine or platters of food. Still, I wasn’t ready to go to bed hungry and I had had my fill of the turkey soup I made with the Thanksgiving bird. It also didn’t seem right to make chicken soup when there was still leftover turkey in the fridge. I was determined to make a simple, single-pot supper (L has been on me about doing my share of the dishes) that would rate close to chicken soup on the I’m-sick-and-I-want-comfort-food index. I settled on a basic beef stew.
I cut a small blade roast into large cubes (for some reason rustic food always makes me feel better) and dusted it with flour before browning it in a medium stock pot. When the meat was caralmelized, I added two bottles of a nice dark beer (porter), most of a can of tomato paste, a few gulps of worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon or so of Dijon, a couple of bay leaves and some salt and pepper. I shredded a russet potato that was going a bit soft and put it in to thicken the broth. While that was coming up to a boil, I roughly chopped a few carrots (why did I plant so many?) and a large onion. I threw in a handfull of mushrooms I had lying around and put the pot into a 350 degree oven for a couple of hours.
It didn’t come with the best house wine, but chicken soup has a new rival.