Variations on a Stew: Garlic, Cinnamon, and Paprika

We’re running out of winter here in the South–not that we really had a winter this year! Stews are fine throughout the year, I suppose, but for me they definitely fall into that category of dishes that just taste a heck of a lot better when it’s cold outside.

Stews are about as simple as they get too. After all, isn’t every stew recipe basically the same: brown your meat; add liquid, veg, and herbs/spices; cook until the meat is tender. How hard is that, right?

I love a classic stew–beef with carrots, onions, and celery, seasoned with bay and allspice. But it’s fun to mix it up as well. I am not sure what really inspired this particular variation–other than the fact that I was craving to cook some cracked wheat as a starch and was in search of a main course to pair with it. There’s nothing particularly North African about this dish, but that was the direction I was heading with this stew (in my imagination, at least).

1/3 cup canola oil
3 lbs bottom round, cut into large (1-1/2″ x 1″) pieces
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large onion, sliced
8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups water
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 small potatoes, finely chopped

Heat your oil to medium-high in a heavy-bottomed pot (I estimated the oil–you want to have about 1/8″ across the bottom of your pot ). Combine 1 tablespoon of the salt, the black pepper, the cinnamon, and the flour. Dredge your beef cubes and brown on all sides in small batches. Set aside the beef.

Next, add your sliced onions and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt to your pot. Cook your onions until they are soft and starting to brown, making sure to scrape the glaze off the bottom of the pan.

When your onions are cooked, add your chopped garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Return your meat to the pot, then add your remaining ingredients.

Cover and lower to a simmer. Cook until your meat is tender and your potatoes and onions have all but dissolved–around two hours.

Like I said, I am a fan of a classic stew served over a slice of bread, with lots of chunky vegetables. For this stew, however, I really was looking for something to showcase the meat and spices, with a really thick sauce to accompany it. The dish paired really well with the cracked wheat, by the way, and the leftovers made some rather tasty empanadas.

But that’s another recipe!

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