Not so Melt-in-your-mouth beef shin stew

As pictured in Cooking with Jamie

I may love food and I may love cooking but that doesn't mean I'm any good at it, but I love to eat and I love to cook, so I do what I can to stick by it.  Cooking for me is a definite learning process all the way and it doesn't come easy as it does with many of my other friends I know, baking is always a travesty, meats are hit or miss and stews... well, until today I always thought stews were supposed to be a sure thing.

I have so much to say and share with you on my recent experience on a stew recipe I decided to try this past weekend, how do I begin?  Let me first begin by saying the most obvious, the recipe has to be good and secondly, the level of cooking the recipe calls for needs to be what your willing to do 100% and of course it would probably help if you were at that level.

Today's stew recipe is from a fairly expensive cookbook I have by none other than Jaime Oliver, the title of the recipe to be tackled: Melt-in-your mouth shin stew.  The level of cooking though the recipe does not specify is most likely easy.  There are numerous ingredients and spices that go into making this stew possible but basically you just chop everything and stew it up in one big pot.

The ingredients called for veggies including the very expensive porcini mushrooms, fresh herbs

and a bottle of Chianti, whatever is left over in the bottle I highly recommend you drink

Once all the vegetables were roughly chopped

I heated up a glug of olive oil in my new favorite, the $40 dutch oven

and threw all the veg and herbs, including the stick of cinnamon, into the dutch oven so that it would all soften on med to med-high heat.

And while the vegetables were softening on the stove, I took my 2 1/4lb of what should have been Beef Shin but what was actually just stewing beef...

And lightly coated them in some seasoned flour (2Tbsp flour + a little bit of salt + a little bit of pepper).

Once all the meat was nicely lightly coated I tossed the meat into the same dutch oven as my already softened vegetables, I gave it a good mix up for a few minutes.

I tossed in a 28oz of plum tomatoes in a can with it's juices

Along with 2/3 of the bottle of Chianti and a pinch of salt & pepper

Gave the entire dutch oven a good mix with my wooden spoon and waited for it to come to a boil.

And though Jaime Oliver never said to skim the foam, I did... because it just looked gross, plus I was just standing there waiting for it to boil.

While we wait for this dutch oven with all it's contents to come to a boil let me take the time to share with you a little story about this "shin stew".... On the day I was buying ingredients to prepare this shin stew, all was going well except when it came time to actually buy the Beef Shin.  I ran to three different butchers before I was finally told that Beef Shin wasn't in season, apparently Beef Shin doesn't do well with heat and as we all know, it's Summer!  Hence, none of the meat markets were carrying Beef Shin.  This I think was pretty vital information that would have been HELPFUL and GREAT to know, after all, I'm no butcher nor ProCook!  Instead of getting the out-of-season Beef Shin for the "Melt-in-your-mouth shin stew" I got the next best thing, stewing beef.

Once the dutch oven came to a boil, I turn off the heat, covered the top with a double layer of foil, placed the lid on top tightly and put it in the 350 degree preheated oven for 3 hour.

So far, the cooking was going all very well and easy, in a hour or so the kitchen would begin to smell very good.

I awaited patiently for my stew to be done and set the table with the fresh flowers I bought earlier just for tonight's stew dinner.

When the 3 hours were up I was pleasantly surprised to see that the wine had reduced as it should have and what looked before like wine soup was now actually a stew.  I was even more pleased with myself when I lightly poked the meat with a spoon and found that it gave way quite easily and broke into little pieces.

What was disappointing however, was the taste.  Is it actually supposed to taste like this?  I will never really know I suppose, but I followed the directions pretty exact minus the Beef Shin that wasn't in season and the porcini mushrooms that were fresh instead of dried.  The flavor and texture reminded me of Beef Bourguignon without the rich, full bodied taste.  I can't say that it was delicious and yet I can't say that it was terrible either, it was simply a hearty stew, complex in deep, earthy, winter-like flavors but lacked a very big taste... a certain something that I cannot place.  Perhaps Jamie Oliver has very English taste?

What I found to be most annoying of this recipe project I really was looking forward to was that the recipe never mentioned about the seasonal Beef Shin, had I known this I would have never endeavored to try this recipe, after all, it's supposed to be BEEF SHIN stew and what I made was actually just beef stew, which I'm sure resulted in the chewy stringy beef in my stew, this wasn't at all pleasant.

However, should you want to give it a go here is Jamie Oliver's recipe from Cook With Jamie, I hope you have better luck than I!

Olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sticks of cleery, trimmed and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 Bay leaves
A small handful of dried porcini
1 cinnamon stick
2 1/4 lb shin of beef, bone removed, trimmed and cut into 2"pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp flour
28oz can of good-quality plum tomatoes
2/3 of a bottle of Chianti

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy bottomed ovenproof saucepan

Gently fry onions, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs, porcini and cinnamon until lightly softened (5min)

Toss beef in seasoned flour so that it is lightly coated

Add the meat to the pan and stir everything together

Add the tomatoes, wine and pinch of salt and pepper and gently bring to the boil

Cover with a double-thickness pieces of aluminum foil and a lid and place in the over for 3hours or until the beef is meltingly tender and can be broken up with a spoon.

Check the seasoning and remove the cinnamon stick and rosemary sprigs.


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