My parents recently joined a meat CSA. They pay for a seasonal subscription to a pasture-based farm, and every month they pick up 5-6 pounds of grass-fed, grass-finished beef, veal and lamb. Through the CSA, they get grass-fed, local meat for a much lower price than they would pay if they bought individual cuts of meat. But they don’t get to choose which cuts they get, so they often end up with cuts that wouldn’t work in most people’s go-to recipes. Luckily, my dad sees this as a challenge, and so do I. While visiting them over the holidays, I cooked up some veal that the farm simply labeled “stew meat” from their monthly CSA. I’m ok with eating veal, as long as the animal was raised on pasture, eating grass and real cow’s milk, and treated humanely until its death. What do you think?
Stew meat is usually taken from the tougher cuts of meat, like chuck and rump meat. If you have one of these cuts, you can cut it up into 1-inch cubes before cooking to make stew meat. If you buy your meat directly from a farmer, it is well worth learning how to cook these cuts – they have plenty of flavor if you cook them right, and they are so much less expensive! And small farmers appreciate having a market for their less popular cuts.
Braising is a method of cooking meat in a small amount of liquid over a long period of time. It keeps tough cuts tender and flavorful. I developed this recipe because I had leftover tomato juice from straining tomatoes for my pizza recipe. I encourage you to experiment with what you have on hand. Many similar braising recipes call for wine instead of the tomato juice and vinegar I used. I served this with polenta, cooked with the turkey broth and tomato juice leftover in the jars after I started cooking the meat. And I used a crock pot, which meant I could leave it cooking in the house while I went out during the day. If you don’t have one, you can use a big stock pot on the stove.
About 1 lb stew meat (grass-fed beef or veal – or experiment with what you have!)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
5-10 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tbsp dried thyme
½ tbsp dried basil
½ tbsp dried sage
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 cup broth (chicken, turkey, or beef – homemade bone broth is best!)
2 cups tomato juice
2 tbsp vinegar
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
- If you are using a crock pot, heat olive oil in a pan until just shimmering. If you are braising the meat over the stove, do this in a large stock pot. Lightly brown the pieces of meat on all sides in the olive oil. Do this in small batches, so the pieces have plenty of room in the pan. Remove meat from the pan.
- Add onion and carrot. Cook for about 15 minutes, until they are starting to brown.
- Add garlic, thyme, basil, sage, and bay leaf. Cook 2 minutes.
- Add mustard, stir, and cook for 2 minutes more.
- If you are using a crock pot, transfer the mixture to the crock pot now. Otherwise, continue to add ingredients to your stock pot.
- Add 1 cup tomato juice, broth, vinegar, raisins, and sundried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the meat last, leaving it on top. Each piece should stick up over the top of the liquid, which keeps the internal temperature of the meat low so it cooks slowly and gets nice and tender.
- Cover the pot or crock pot, leaving it open just a crack so that steam can escape. If you are using a crock pot, cook on low for 5-10 hours. If you are using a stock pot, it should be on low, just barely simmering, for 5-10 hours.
- Check on the meat a few times during the cooking process if you can. If the liquid is almost gone, add a bit of stock, tomato juice, or water.
- When you are ready to eat, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve the meat over polenta, rice, bread, or vegetables, using the cooking liquid as a sauce.
This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.