I LOVE entertaining! I love bringing different groups of people together. I love feeding a whole big bunch of people and making them happy. (Think that has anything to do with being the youngest of six kids with five older brothers?) The week before last, we had only five other people over for dinner, yet the appetizer hour sounded like 20, the conversation was so loud. After dinner while still at the table, the discussion got political with both sides being heated. Us girls all got up and busied ourselves in the kitchen, cleaning up, worried that the temperature was getting too hot and wondering how we could change the course of the conversation. But no, this was all friendly sparring and intellectual discourse.
Everyone left on a very happy note (with full bellies I might add – everyone had seconds on both the entrée and dessert!) and while washing wine glasses, my husband remarked on how much he LOVED the discussion. The next day, each thank-you note from the guys mentioned how much they enjoyed the spirited political discussion. Go figure. Anyway, for the main course I made this amazing Spicy Beef Ragout.
Even though it is now March and daylight savings time starts tonight, it is still cold and this is the perfect dish to warm the soul. Hearty and so very good, make it now. You will be delighted. I bought nearly 3.4 pounds of meat and trimmed most of the fat, to end up with at least 3 pounds. This makes for a really healthy dish as even after refrigeration, there was no fat to skim off. Here it is.
As I said, EVERYONE had seconds. After I had served the first helping, they all made fun of me as to how much I had made. Ahem. There wasn’t a real single serving left – only one piece of meat and a handful of noodles. I made this on a Sunday to serve on Thursday. Letting it sit in the fridge to “mature” is the very best thing to do. Plus it makes for an easy dinner the night you are serving it!
SPICY BEEF RAGOUT – serves 6 – 8
13 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling on noodles
Fresh ground black pepper
7 sprigs fresh thyme
3 lbs. trimmed beef chuck cut in 2” chunks
½ of a large fennel bulb, chopped
1 cup finely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
2 shallots, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. flour
15 large Sicilian green olives, pitted and chopped
3/4 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
2 cups robust red wine
½ cup beef stock
3 branches fresh rosemary, each about 7” long
2 small fresh bay leaves
1 lb. egg noodles
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pile tomatoes on top, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Add leaves from 4 branches of the thyme, toss again, then spread the tomatoes in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet, skin side down. Set aside.
Heat remaining oil in an ovenproof casserole on medium high. Dry meat, season with salt and pepper and sear in several batches to avoid crowding until lightly browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl. Lower heat to medium low. Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Add fennel, leeks, shallot and garlic to casserole, stir, season with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the flour, cook for a moment or two, than add olives, chile flakes and wine. Stir, scraping pan, and bring to a simmer. Add stock. Return meat and its juices to the casserole.
Stir in the branches of rosemary, bay leaves and remaining thyme, making sure they are immersed into the meat and liquid. Cover and place in the oven. Place the pan of tomatoes in the oven. Cook both for 2 hours. Remove the pans from the oven. Check seasoning of meat. Cool and then refrigerate for 1 – 5 days.
Remove from refrigerator for one hour before putting in the oven. Reheat, covered, in a 250 – 300 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Boil 1 lb. of egg noodles in salted water. (I cooked them 3 minutes less than the package directions stated.) Drain and spread out on a large platter. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Transfer meat and sauce atop the noodles.
Warm the tomatoes in the microwave for a minute or two, arrange tomatoes on top and sprinkle on chopped parsley. Serve with LOVE and enjoy thoroughly!!!