These days I'm into food served in bowls. There's something inherently comforting about a curved vessel, no square edges, its boundaries smooth and easy. I enjoy few things more than a bowl of cereal. A bowl of fruit is always nice. And I certainly wouldn't pass on a great big bowl of ice cream. The point in the meal where you tip the dish at an angle (perhaps a bit gauche, but not on a cold Sunday night at home) is the best part, scooping the final bits out of that perfect roundness.
Tonight found me trying something new. I've made lots of soups, from purées and those with heavy cream, right through to the chunkiest of stews. But I've never made a stew like this, rich with red wine and hearty hunks of bison. This one isn't dissimilar to the ragù I made the other day, though with the addition of thyme and potatoes feels decidedly more Irish than Italian. Stews like this don't photograph well, so forgive me, I left some out. But this sort of thing isn't about the way it looks, but rather the way it smells and wraps itself around you like a giant cableknit sweater. You'll just have to trust me, or, better yet: make it yourself.
1½ lbs bison stewing meat, cut into one inch cubes
3 medium carrots, chopped
4 medium potatoes, chopped
3 ribs of celery
12 red pearl onions, peeled (Or just chop up a regular-sized onion. I wanted these little guys to stay intact and be a tactile component of the stew rather than all minced-up.)
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
6 cloves of garlic
5 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
10 sprigs of fresh thyme
(It should be noted, when making meals like this, measurements are pretty loose, particularly liquids.)
At medium-high, heat oil in a heavy pot. Dredge your bison in flour and sautée until golden on all sides. Set aside. In the same pot, heat more oil and sautée your garlic, ginger, and vegetables for 10 minutes, or-so. Add the meat back to the pot, stir in the tomato paste, douse it all in a couple cups of red wine, beef stock and toss in the fresh thyme. Bring it to a quick and short boil (5 minutes) to burn off a bit of the booze, and then lower the heat and allow it to simmer away for 90 minutes, or until the meat is good and tender.
(Full disclosure: This blog was originally titled Bison Stew with Polenta. I was attempting it for the first time, but it turned out horribly. Gummy and gag-inducing, more like a soggy kitchen sponge. I'm not sure where I went wrong, but it was a disappointment. A stew is nice and all, but I really wanted to accessorize it. So instead we ate an entire baguette. If you have any tips for foolproof polenta, please share in the comments!)