Saturday, November 16, 2013

Recipe: Catalan-style Beef Stew with Mushrooms

Based on a recipe from the January 2012 Cook's Illustrated. Read the story behind this dish in Sunday, Dinner for TwoMakes 8 to 10 servings.

  • Sofrito is a slow-cooked mixture of onions, tomatoes, spices, and herbs which forms the flavor base for the stew. 
  • Picada is a mixture of toasted bread, toasted almonds, garlic, and parsley which thickens and flavors the stew.
  • The original recipe called for boneless short ribs. Since these can be expensive and hard to find I suggest substituting boneless chuck. 
  • Serve the stew over boiled, mashed, or baked potatoes.



Sofrito and stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions 
½ teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
1½ cups dry white wine
1½ cups water
1 large sprig thyme
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2½ pounds boneless beef short ribs or beef chuck
¼ cup whole blanched almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 slice white bread
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
½ pound oyster or button mushrooms
1 teaspoon sherry or red wine vinegar


  1. Sofrito and stew:  Peel and chop the onions fine.
  2. In a Dutch oven over medium-low heat, heat the oil until shimmering
  3. Add onions, sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and cook with frequent stirring for 30 to 40 minutes until the onions are deeply caramelized.
  4. While the onions cook, cut the tomatoes in half through the poles and grate the pulp on a box grater, discarding the skins.
  5. Trim the beef, removing hardened fat and any silver skin, and cut it into 2-inch cubes.
  6. With rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 300°.
  7. Add tomatoes, smoked paprika, and bay leaf to the Dutch oven and cook with frequent stirring for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture is darkened and thick.
  8. Add wine, water, thyme, and cinnamon to the sofrito, scraping up browned bits from the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven.
  9. Season the beef with 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper and add to the Dutch oven.
  10. Bring to a simmer over high heat.
  11. Transfer the Dutch oven to the oven, uncovered, and cook for 1 hour.
  12. Stir the stew to redistribute the beef and continue to cook until the beef is tender, 1½ to 2 hours more.
  13. Picada:  While the stew is in the oven remove the skins from the almonds, if necessary, by blanching them. 
  14. Peel the garlic cloves.
  15. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and the almonds over medium heat for 3 to 6 minutes, stirring often, until golden brown.
  16. Transfer the almonds to the bowl of a food processor.
  17. Remove the crust from the bread, tear it into 1-inch pieces, and add it to the skillet over medium heat and cook 2 to 4 minutes, stirring as needed, until toasted.
  18. Add toasted bread and peeled garlic to the food processor and process for about 20 seconds until the mixture is finely ground.
  19. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, stir in the parsley, and set aside.
  20. Clean the mushrooms and remove woody stems, separating the oyster mushrooms from their common stem.
  21. Return the empty skillet to medium heat and heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering.
  22. Add the mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt and cook with frequent stirring for 5 to 7 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.
  23. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
  24. Remove the bay leaf and thyme from the stew.
  25. Stir in the picada, mushrooms, and vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Cook finely chopped onion with salt and sugar until well caramelized.
Grate the pulp of two tomatoes and add to the onions with a bay leaf and smoked paprika.
Cook until dark and thick.
Cut beef into 2-inch cubes and season with salt and pepper.
Add water, wine, cinnamon, and the beef to the sofrito and cook, uncovered, in a 300° oven.
If necessary, blanch almonds to remove their skins.
Toast the blanched almonds in a skillet.
Toast a slice of bread, torn into pieces, in the skillet.

Process the almonds and bread with garlic and add parsley.
Cook mushrooms until tender.
Add the picada and mushrooms to the stew and serve.

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