Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stout Stew Topped with Cheese Toast

I have recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Rome! Every meal was a culinary delight and I happily gained two pounds, in spite of the many miles of walking every day. Of course, it was nearly impossible to eat anything but marvelous Italian food, but I was fortunate to discover an unassuming family-run place called Tattoria Antonio near the Patheon that offered Italian favorites with beans, instead of pasta, which ended up being my favorite restaurant of the trip. On the flight home, my husband said he wanted a big steak for dinner the next day because he was all "pasta-ed out" and I couldn't have agreed more!

Instead of the traditional steak and potatoes, I wanted to quickly resume my diet of healthful eating, so I made this incredible, thick stew which was just as satisfying. It's based on a traditional Irish stew, but has a lot more vegetables, fiber from the beans and considerably less fat because I chose a lean cut of beef. The house was filled with the delicious aroma of the cooking stew all afternoon and the lean meat ended up being melt-in-your-mouth tender! I served it like a French Onion Soup with the cheese toast in the stew to soak up the flavor. If you're looking for an alternative to the turkey we'll all be stuffed with come next Thursday, try this recipe. I guarantee it will make any cold, rainy November day worthwhile!

Stout Stew Topped with Cheese Toast
(Makes 8 servings)

1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 red onions, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1½ pounds lean stewing beef, cut into ¾" pieces
16 oz. (2 cups) dark beer, such as Guinness (not lager)
2 tablespoons flour mixed with cold water
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1½ cups frozen peas
1½ cups canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Eight ½" thick slices of hearty bread
1 cup shredded 2% reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. In a large Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot, heat ½ tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and saute for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Do not color onions too much. Add carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms and rosemary and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Transfer cooked vegetables to a bowl and increase heat to medium-high.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot and add beef. Quickly sear beef on all sides, and then remove pot from heat. Return cooked vegetables to pot, add pepper and salt and stir to combine. Slowly add the dark beer, trying not to cause too much foaming. Add the flour dissolved in water, plus just enough extra water to cover beef and vegetables and slowly stir. (If beer has foamed too much, allow to settle before placing in oven.) Cover pot and place in the preheated oven for 1½ hours.

3. Stir stew, check liquid level and add a small amount water if necessary. Cover pot and return to oven for another 30 minutes until meat is tender. Once again, stir stew and return to oven uncovered for 20 minutes to allow the stew to thicken. Add frozen peas and drained beans and return to over for another 10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. Remove from oven and allow stew to rest while you prepare the cheese toast.

4. Top each slice of bread with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese. Toast bread in the oven until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. To serve, spoon about 1¼ cups of stew into each serving bowl and place a cheese toast directly in the middle of each, allowing the bread to soak up some of the liquid. (Alternative: If you own sturdy, oven-proof serving bowls, spoon stew into bowls, top with a slice of hearty bread and sprinkle with cheese. Heat under a broiler at least 4-6 inches away from coils until cheese is melted.)

Nutritional Information per serving: 479.3 calories, 45 g carbohydrate, 10 g total fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 639 mg sodium, 7.1 g fiber, 41.5 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

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