A Rich, Fall-to-Pieces Beef Stew to Simmer (and Savor) Slowly

February  8, 2018

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we’ve all been inundated with ideas for romantic dinners at home and chocolate in every form imaginable. And listen, I’m all for romance and cozy dinners and decadent desserts, but the longer I’ve been married, the more I appreciate the other sides of love, too—the messier moments that are just as important to a love story as the initial butterflies are.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

As is the case every week, we scour the site for great recipes from our community (that we then test, photograph, and feature)—this one struck me personally. One read through the headnotes for AliwaksI Fall to Pieces Beef Stew, and I fell, hard:

New Year's Day my boyfriend and I had an epic fight, one of those fights that leave you emotionally bruised and battered and wondering if communicating via sock puppet is really as crazy as it sounds. I woke up melancholy and in need of comfort, which I so often find at the stove. I needed the simple, steady, even prep of making stew, the long wait for flavors to develop, homey nurturing smells wafting through our tiny apartment. I knew that leaving the stew on the stove simmering would lure him out of his fog of anger and into a better place. Cooked with love, it was a gift to him and to us.

The melancholy love story continues throughout the recipe: “Pat meat dry and season generously with salt, pepper, and Korean red pepper flakes—try not to weep, as meat must be dry in order to brown properly.” While I was drawn in by her story, I was hooked by her cooking.

Photo by Ren Fuller

Aliwaks is an executive chef in Maine, and her skill with flavors shines through in all of her recipes (her recipe collection boasts a number of contest winners, finalists, and community picks!). She told me that she likes it when every bite of a dish is a little different, and that comes through in this recipe as she pairs a flavorful beef stew with a kicky parsley, lemon, and horseradish gremolata. (Save any leftover gremolata for topping chicken, fish, or eggs.) The two work together perfectly on their own, but if you really want to take the dish over the top, she suggests serving it with mashed potatoes or buttery noodles (he's Irish, she's Jewish—guess who prefers which).

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Oh, and because we know you’re wondering: They ended up getting married!

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I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.