Newton, Iowa, is the home not only of Maytag washing machines but also of exceptional Maytag blue cheese, reason enough for me to visit the area some years ago and walk away with the recipe for this sumptuous stew included on a supper buffet I attended. Since then, I've experimented with different types of bacon for the dish and most recently have decided that nothing enhances the flavor better than a smoky artisanal peppered bacon. Do remember that the onions need to be stirred slowly over low heat to caramelize properly, and don't overdo the cheese.
Recipe courtesy of The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas; photography by Andrea Grablewski
|5 slices lean peppered bacon||Pinch of dried rosemary, crumbled|
|3 large onions, coarsely chopped||2 bay leaves|
|2 tablespoons vegetable oil||Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste|
|2 1/2 pounds beef shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes||2 cups beef broth|
|3 tablespoons all-purpose flour||1 tablespoon cider vinegar|
|1 cup ale or full-bodied beer||1 cup crumbled Maytag blue cheese (available in most markets)|
|Pinch of dried thyme, crumbled|
In a large, heavy pot, fry the bacon over moderate heat till almost crisp, drain on paper towels, and crumble. Add the onions to the bacon fat, reduce the heat to very low, and cook them slowly, stirring, till nicely caramelized, about 20 minutes. Transfer the onions to a plate, add the vegetable oil to the remaining fat in the pot, and increase the heat to moderately high.
On a large plate, dust the beef in the flour, tapping off any excess. Add to the pot and brown on all sides. Add the ale and stir, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the crumbled bacon and onions to the pot and add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, salt and pepper, broth, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook till the beef is very tender, about 2 hours.
Serve the stew in bowls with a little blue cheese sprinkled on top.
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