M. Andrew Gordon

Last Minute Substitutions Yield Grand Results

In Beef, Main Dish, Soups and Stews, Uncategorized on March 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm


As I awoke on Sunday morning, I had a hankering for a richly spiced stew, possibly a curry or perhaps some Moroccan-inspired flavors.  That Lena would be coming back from running a 10K in the snow also made a hearty stew seem like a great idea.  Lamb stew really got me intrigued but when I went to the grocery store (I didn’t feel like making a special cross-town trip to a butcher), all of the lamb seemed excessively priced for the cuts available.  Enter the first substitution: boneless beef sirloin filets for lamb.  At this point, my thoughts began to drift back into the curry realm, and I started salivating thinking about beef rendang.  But I am nothing if not stubborn and I decided to try out the beef in a Moroccan-styled stew.

As I started chopping onions and cutting meat, I had every intention of serving this stew over rice.  But when I realized that I had several potatoes taking up space on the shelf, I decided that I’d try my hand at gnocchi.  Substitution number two turned out to be a smart one, as the soft, doughy gnocchi were the perfect accompaniment to this stew.

With the rich flavors from the ras el hanout, the generally neutral flavor and texture of the gnocchi, and the briny sweetness of the quick Meyer lemon preserve, this dish was typical Just Add Bacon: a far cry from the standard meat-and-potato stew and from its unique cultural backdrop but somehow still seeming like it was rooted in a traditional cuisine.

Moroccan-styled Beef Stew

  • 6 dried chiles, preferably serrano, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 ½ lbs beef sirloin filets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ras el hanout
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 ½ cups beef broth
  • Zest of 1 Meyer lemon, minced
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup quick-preserved Meyer lemon, recipe follows
  1. In small bowl, cover the chiles with boiling water and set aside for one hour.
  2. In large bowl, combine sirloin, pepper, salt, 2 teaspoons of ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon paprika, and cinnamon.  Toss to coat well and refrigerate for one hour.
  3. Drain chiles and finely chop.  Set aside.  Remove meat from refrigerator.  In large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and cook the carrots, onion, and garlic for one minute.  Add remainig ras el hanout and paprika and cook until the carrot softens.  Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
  4. Add one tablespoon oil and half of the sirloin.  Brown on all sides and remove with slotted spoon.  Repeat with remaining oil and sirloin.  Add browned beef back to pot along with carrot mixture.  Add beef broth, reserved chopped chile peppers, and lemon zest.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering for 2 hours.
  5. Add raisins and cook for 15 – 20 minutes.  Serve over gnocchi, rice, mashed or roasted potato.  Garnish with a tablespoon of the quick-preserved lemon.
Quick Preserved Meyer Lemon
  • 1 meyer lemon, skin and pith removed, sliced thin and seeds removed
  • Kosher salt
  • Rice vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. In jar, pour about 1 teaspoon salt into bottom of jar.  Add two or three slices of lemon to jar in as thin a layer of possible.  Sprinkle another teaspoon of salt over lemon, repeating with lemon slices and salt until you are done.  Crack a generous amount of pepper over lemon and the pour enough vinegar to cover.  Let sit for 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Strain lemon, reserving vinegar mixture.  Finely chop the lemon and place in bowl.  Add enough of the reserved vinegar to just moisten.
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  1. So this is what I was hearing about. I can almost taste it!

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