Sunday, November 19, 2006

Upside down stew

An interesting psychological experiment to try out on your children: make a venison stew from veal stock and leave it over night to set, before turning it upside down and scaring the shit out of them when the molten-looking meaty mass doesn’t move an inch. You’d have to have been around some under-threes for while to full appreciate it, I imagine.

I had hoped this would happen. This meal, a dry-run for the wedding, was fucking posh. It was also extremely simple. I first diced the already well-trimmed haunch into bite-sized pieces and fried them off in batches in hot oil, browning some neatly prepped uniform shallots, whole, at the same time. Then I took out the shallots, tossed the seared chunks of meat in seasoned flour and then deglazed with a large glass of the exceptional red burgundy that my rich and cultured friend had married so thoughtfully with the venison loin in the week. Once that had boiled down for a while I slid a small tub of veal stock in, poked a bouquet garni of leek, thyme, parsley and bay between the dark cubes and let the whole thing simmer away for a good half hour, adding a handful of cowboy-turned carrots and a spoon of redcurrant jelly towards the end, checking the seasoning and leaving it to cool.

Today I was rewarded greatly. I had been checking the meat at various stages to try and fathom the dryness issue. After about 15 minutes it was tasty and chewy, but when I had switched it off half an hour later it was as dry as fuck. But it didn’t let me down overnight, as I had hoped. When it came to about 15 minutes before dinner-time I simply melted the pot over a slow heat, and served a spoon of it with some uniform blocks of roast parsnip and tattie, and a pile of braised Savoy cabbage tossed in mustard and sharp, wholegrain mustard.

By fuck it worked. The stew was a piece of luxury, traditional but extremely classy indeed. A simple but very deep richness, and a sheen like fine gold lace, the parsnips providing a mushy sweetness and the mustard-cabbage a valuable edge. It was flawless, although I will cook the meat for even less next week. What is it with stews that makes me want to fucking cook the fuck out of them for hours? I mean, I was the one who made the stock, so I know how much stewing has gone on. It’s that horrible nagging feeling I get from time to time, reminding me that my cooking has not quite reached the heights of abstraction from student-cooking that I often think it has.

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