How to beef up a savory stew for a fine autumnal feast Entertaining: Ragout is easy to make and serve to your guests.

October 25, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Last weekend, in a small, local grocery, I asked the butcher what he would recommend. He pointed to some beautiful beef stew meat, cut from sirloin tips, which was on sale. I put a few pounds in my cart. I also picked up a package of carrots, a bag of onions, and both white and shiitake mushrooms - all the makings for an autumn ragout.

At home, I browned beef cubes, sauteed chopped onions and diced carrots, and then simmered the mixture along with herbs in beef stock and red wine. While the stew was cooking, I sliced the mushrooms and pan-fried them to add as a final garnish. Although I could have served this hearty stew with boiled red-skin potatoes or over mounds of rice, I chose broad noodles to accompany the dish.

My husband and I loved the fork-tender meat and vegetables covered in a rich, dark sauce.

I'm going to keep this recipe in mind the next time I plan a buffet. Stews make ideal all-in-one main courses to serve at such gatherings for several reasons: Ragouts can be made one to two days ahead and actually improve in taste when the flavors have a chance to meld. Another advantage is that these dishes can be doubled or tripled without problems to accommodate whatever size group you're entertaining.

Autumn Beef and Mushroom Ragout

Serves 4 to 5

2 to 2 1/4 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1/4 cup oil, plus more if needed

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 cups 1/4-inch diced carrots

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

3 sprigs parsley, preferably flat leaf, plus 2 tablespoons chopped for garnish

salt, freshly ground black pepper

3 cups reduced-sodium beef stock, plus more if needed

2 cups dry red wine, plus more if needed

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned

8 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned

1 pound wide noodles (see note)

Pat meat dry with paper towels. Add enough oil to coat bottom of large, deep-sided pan with lid and heat over medium heat. When oil is very hot, add enough beef cubes to fit comfortably in single layer and saute until browned well on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove meat with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Continue, adding more oil as needed, until all meat is browned.

Add oil to coat bottom of same pan. Heat over medium heat and when hot, add onions and carrots and cook, stirring constantly, to soften slightly, about 3 minutes.

Return meat to pan, sprinkle with flour and stir and cook2 minutes. Add thyme leaves, parsley sprigs, 1 teaspoon salt,1/2 teaspoon pepper, stock and wine to pot. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat and cook, covered, until meat is very tender when pierced with knife, about 1 1/2 hours.

(If liquids seem too thick near end of cooking time, add up to 1/2 cup additional stock and up to 1/3 cup more wine.)

While stew is simmering, prepare mushrooms. Remove and discard stems from shiitakes and slice into 1/2-inch strips. Cut white mushrooms through stems into 1/2-inch-wide slices.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy, medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until browned,3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside at cool room temperature.

When stew is done, remove parsley sprigs and discard. Stir in mushrooms. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. (Stew can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat when needed.)

When ready to serve, bring large pot of water to boil and salt generously. Add noodles and cook until al dente, 4 to 5 minutes for fresh noodles, 10 to 12 minutes for dried. Drain noodles. Taste and salt if needed.

Arrange on serving platter. Mound stew on top and garnish with chopped parsley.

Note: Pappardelle, the extra-wide Italian noodles, work well in this recipe.

Pub Date: 10/25/98

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